Postpartum Update!

Even their cries are adorable! 

This is the type of thing I hear myself repeating since the birth of my twins boys almost four weeks ago. 

I'm obsessed with them. 

Everything they do is wonderful. Every tiny whimper, each long newborn yawn, all the slow and the jerky movements of their skinny legs and arms: they captivate me. 

I could spent hours staring at them. 

I could. If I had time. 

Newborn twin life is a dreamy place, mostly for the magic and partly for the sleepiness (read: exhaustion). My days and nights are a series of movements from feeding to diaper changing to cuddling to bathing to: Quick! Fall asleep as fast as you can before they wake up again! 

It reads pretty dull on paper but the overwhelming love I have for these two little boys makes it wonderful. It reminds me of the way I feel when I'm with my husband: I love doing even boring things with him, like going to the Secretary of State or to change the oil on our car, because I just love being with him. Being with him turns tedium into treasured time. 

Same with my boys. 
We are being very well taken care of in our dreamy/exhausted state. My mom has come to stay with us for two weeks and has been an enormous help to me. She is not only my second set of hands, but has taken it upon herself to do a number of spring chores around our house like painting our peeling front porch and doing a hands-and-knees scrub of our kitchen floors. All while I nap or nurse babies. 

Friends of ours have blessed us in many ways. This week our adoption team from church came over and weeded and mulched our back gardens! Our backyard has never looked so good. I was totally resigned to having a bed of weeds back there this year, but instead it looks the best it has in our five years in this house! What a blessing. 

We've received meal after meal after meal for both lunches and dinners. As a nursing mama I can't tell you how wonderful it has been to have beautiful, nutritious meals brought to our door. 

And the presents. Oh my, the presents. Baby clothes, gear, soaps, lotions, blankets, carriers, swaddles, toys, books, gift cards, cheques: it's been overwhelming. I bet I have written over 80 thank you cards and I have a list of another 20+ to go. Unreal. I've been completely overwhelmed by the generosity we've been shown; generosity that signifies just how many people have been praying for our family and celebrating with us as we welcome Ira and Roman into our family. 

Because it has already taken me a few hours to get this far into the post I will hold back from droning on (and on and on) about how sweet this time is and answer a few questions I keep receiving from you. Thank you for all your interest and support during this special time! I love sharing this time with you because I know it is an answer to so many of your prayers. I cannot thank you enough! 

How did you pick their names? 

Ira William- Ira was inspired by Ira Glass, the host and producer of This American Life on NPR. John and I are public radio fans and even more than that, a fans of good stories. Ira Glass is my story-telling hero. To us his name conjures up words like sophistication, talent, interest... when we hear the name "Ira" it brings all good feelings with it. We both immediately agreed this was a name we wanted to use if we had a boy! And William was John's dad's name as well as John's middle name. 

Roman Irving- I feel a little sheepish telling you that while Ira's name was inspired by a such a wonderful real-life personality, we chose Roman's name when we heard it on the television show Chicago PD. Ha! I actually texted it to John while watching the show one evening and he loved it as much as I did. Done. Irving is my dad's name and my brother's middle name.

How is breastfeeding going? It's going well but not easy. Since our guys were preemies they were not able to nurse right away and we are on a journey as they learn how to breastfeed. I am currently doing a combination of nursing, pumping, and bottle feeding. I am producing about 80% of what they need and using formula to supplement the rest. I've had lots of help from the lactation consultants at our hospital so I feel really good about where we are on the journey; I know I am doing my best and so are Ira and Roman. My hope is that over the next couple months we'll be able to transition them to mostly breastfeeding and eliminate most of their bottles (both formula bottles and pumped milk bottles). Even though it hasn't been easy it hasn't been frustrating either. We are just taking it one day at at time and staying grateful for the fact that they are growing and getting the nutrition they need every day. Also I love nursing them and the close bond I feel to them when they are at the breast! 

How are YOU doing? I'm doing great. My recovery from the birth has been very smooth and I feel so much healthier now that I am not pregnant anymore! I am definitely very, very tired taking care of newborn twins but I have been resting as much as I can. I haven't had baby blues or postpartum depression. I'm very thankful for that because it was hard enough having our twins in the special care nursery; I needed to be emotionally healthy and I'm thankful I was and continue to be! The one thing I wish I was able to do would be to have more visitors but I've been declining a lot because I'm so tired and I know I usually need to rest more than I need to visit. So many people want to come see the babies and I say yes as much as I can but I do wish I had energy for more. It will come though. When the babies start sleeping longer stretches I'm sure I'll be up for more visits! 

Speaking of sleep, how are the babies sleeping? They are sleeping like newborns. They are up every 2-3 hours. It takes us almost an hour to do their feeding/changing/pumping/etc routine at night so I am getting 1-2 hours of sleep at a time. Every night I say to John, "One day closer to sleeping through the night." Ha! Someday.

And how is Arie doing? Arie is a fantastic big brother. From day one he has been very sweet and loving to his brothers. He makes sure we help them when they are crying and often tells me he can "watch over them" if I need to get something from the kitchen or another room. He helped us give them their first bath at home which was a great bonding experience! 

Arie did not like it when I was in the hospital and when our normal routine was interrupted by the twins special care nursery stay. He did a few things to draw attention to himself including coloring all over his body with marker! I wish I would have taken a picture before I stuck him in the bath! He was quite the artistic sight! But now that we are into our new routine he is back to his normal self. We are so lucky so have such a sweet boy to be a big brother to our two new additions! 

That's all for now! Thank you again for all your love, prayers, and support. It truly means so much to me! 



Scenes from the Special Care Nursery

Ira and Roman are now nine days old! They've spent their whole lives so far in the Special Care Nursery at our hospital. Having our babies in the Special Care Nursery has definitely been an emotional experience; I was discharged after two days in the hospital and leaving my babies railed against every maternal instinct I have. While I know they are in the best place they can be right now, I cannot wait to bring them home!

On their first day in the SCN one of the nurses said something to me that I found extremely helpful and comforting. "Being here is no one's first choice," she said, "but we will make this the best plan B we can."

And so we have.

John and I have been focused on the "silver linings" of our babies' time in the hospital. The thing we have come to appreciate the most about these last nine days has been the considerable quiet time we've had to simply hold our babies, stare at them, and drink in their newness. This newborn phase goes by so fast but we've had the distinct advantage of having hours with them to simply hold their tiny warm bodies against our skin. This has been a true pleasure.

We've had a number of other special moments together like their first bath last week and, this week, their first time tandem nursing. Here are some special pictures from our time in the Special Care Nursery:

One day old, Ira and Roman get their first bath!
Ira getting undressed for his bath
Sleepy Roman about to wake up for his bath
Washing Ira's hair
John dressing Roman 
We had Arie visit a few times. He was so cute asking the babies, "Do you want to come live at my house?" At one point Ira began to cry and Arie was very concerned telling John in a panicky voice, "DAD! You have to help him!!" (He did!)

First time tandem nursing the boys. I love looking down at their sweet faces!

We are in love with our boys and so happy God has placed them in our family!
Roman Irving
Ira William

We won't know when the boys are going home until the day they are discharged, but we are getting very close. (It is an "any day now" type situation.) I appreciate your prayers for them and us as we spend these last few days in the nursery and anticipate the transition to life at home!



Ira & Roman's Birth Story

On Monday April 18, 2016 I went to bed contented with the knowledge that in the morning I would be a full 35 weeks pregnant with my twin boys. Having developed mild pre-eclampsia a week earlier, I was celebrating each day I stayed pregnant as a win. I could feel my body was getting tired and stressed from the pregnancy and while I hoped to make it to 37 weeks, my intuition was telling me that it as almost time for my babies to be born. I was comforted to know that I had already received steroid shots for the boys' lungs in case they did come early. While I knew if they did come early, they would probably spend some time in our hospital's Special Care Nursery, I had every hope that it would only be as "feeders and growers" and not as sick or troubled preemies.

That night I woke up around 2:30am to pee. As I stepped away from my bed I felt my underwear suddenly flooding. Immediately I thought, "My water broke!" and I ran down our short hallway to the bathroom. In the bathroom I felt a big gush and heard a splash on the floor. I reached for the light and looked down, expecting to see my waters beneath me.

Instead, I found I was standing in a large puddle of blood.

After suffering five long years of infertility, heartbreak, and loss to finally carry these babies inside of me, my body ran cold with fear. Please God. Please God. Please God. I cried inwardly. Don't let me lose these babies. 

Outwardly I called for my husband in a strong voice, "JOHN! Come here! EMERGENCY!"

John jumped out of bed and ran to the bathroom.

He found me sitting on the toilet, continuing to bleed. I could only think that with such heavy bleeding I might soon pass out and wanted to get an ambulance on the way as soon as possible.

John's eyes grew wide and filled with fear when he saw the blood on the floor.

I pointed to my phone charging on the bathroom counter. "You need to call 9-1-1. Tell them I'm 35 weeks pregnant with twins and bleeding heavily."

John quickly responded and did exactly that. The operator on the other end was concerned that I would give birth on the toilet and told him to get me off quickly.

As stood up I realized I was not feeling faint from the blood loss; I began to hope that the red river on our floor was actually my waters mixed with blood. The color was so richly red though, not dilute, that I still held my breath.

As he continued to talk to the operator John brought me a t-shirt, underwear, and sweatpants to change into. Once dressed he helped me downstairs and grabbed my hospital bag. Soon a fire truck and an ambulance were at our door.

Since our five-year-old son was still asleep upstairs, I rode to the hospital in the ambulance alone. John ran upstairs to clean the blood so our son would not wake up to see it and then called our friend- who I will now always think of a rescuing angel- to come sit at our house while his mom drove the hour-long drive to come stay with our son.

Meanwhile in the ambulance I began having contractions. I was still alert and not feeling sick or faint which encouraged me. At the hospital I was brought right up to the birth center and hooked up to fetal monitors. I breathed through strengthening contractions as I waited anxiously to hear my babies' heartbeats.

The nurse found both heartbeats strong and steady right away. I thanked God from the very deepest depths of my faith. My babies were still alive.

The on-call OB took a sample of the red fluid coming from my body, now slowed to a steady leak. She told me that amniotic fluid has a very specific pattern under a microscope and when she examined it, it was indeed my waters that had broken. I asked her why there was so much blood and she said, "I know it's scary for you and you did exactly the right thing by coming in but sometimes this does happen when the membranes pull away."

I took a deep breath and sighed with relief.

She got out an ultrasound machine to check on the babies. "Are you planning on a cesarean birth?"

"Well," I said, "My baby A was head down and baby B head up so I was hoping to attempt a vaginal birth but... I didn't know if all this bleeding would change things?"

"No," she said, "You can certainly still try." Then she smiled and said, "And it looks like your baby B has flipped and is now head down too!"

I cheered with happiness! In less than an hour I had gone from thinking my babies might be dying to learning that I was likely to have the vaginal birth I had been hoping for my entire pregnancy!

After the doctor left the room, John arrived. I smiled and explained that everything was okay with both me and the babies. His sigh of relief rivaled my own.

The only "bad news" was that I had taken an injectable blood thinner- something I had been doing my entire pregnancy to treat a blood clotting disorder- at 10pm that night and would not be able to get an epidural until 10am the next morning. I was also not able to get up out of bed to move around and cope with the pain my contractions because my blood pressure was high and my nurse was worried about me seizing. I was strapped to fetal monitors continuously so moving around would have been very difficult anyway. After the scary was my labour started I wanted those monitors on, though! I wanted to be reassured of every single heartbeat until my babies were in my arms.

My labor progressed fairly quickly for a first time birth. By 7am (about 4 hours later) I had dilated to 6cm. My body began to shake from the intensity of the contractions and I thought, "I bet I'm in transition."

I had been offered Stadol- an intravenous drug- to help me cope with the contractions. "It won't take the pain of the contractions away," explained my nurse, "but it will help you relax and take the edge off."

For a few hours I declined because I was worried the drug would make me nauseated, but then I began throwing up from the pain of the contractions anyway, so I requested a dose. The Stadol was awesome! Like my nurse had explained, it did not take the pain away but I was able to relax and fall asleep between contractions. The first dose wore off after about an hour and my contractions felt unbearable. I moaned through them, trying to externalize some of their painful energy with my voice. John and my nurses encouraged me through each painful wave- some lasting as long as six minutes!- and told me I was doing great. I continued to shake and throw up through the labor. At 8am I asked for a second dose of Stadol and that got me through until a little after 9am.

At 9am my OB came in and checked me to see how far I was dilated and I was at 8cm! I thanked God I wasn't at 10cm because I had been wondering if I would be able to get my epidural before I was complete and ready to birth my babies. My OB has explained to me that sometimes in a twin birth, baby B will flip to breech presentation and required her to reach up inside of me to turn him or get him out. Even though I knew baby B was head down and likely to come out just fine, I had a strong feeling that something was going to happen for which I would need an epidural. I wanted that thing so bad!

Finally I head the words I had been waiting to hear, "The anesthesiologist is on his way."

I'm pretty sure I replied with a tearful, "Thank you Jesus!"

And I meant it.

It was amazing how even just sitting up to get the epidural helped with my pain. I can see why it is usually recommended that women get up and move around during labor. I think that would have made my labor much more bearable!

I'm sure like many women I could have kissed the anesthesiologist once my epidural was in. I reclined back in my bed and felt both peace and excitement flood over me! The pain was over and I was soon to meet my boys! Laboring with the epidural was amazing. John and I enjoyed those last few hours before the birth together, we talked about what a crazy night it had been, he sent updates to his mom, and we felt abuzz with anticipation! All the while our boys' heartbeats beat steadily on.

My OB came in a while later to check me and I was "9cm with a lip." I remind that way for quite a while. My contractions were not registering as strong on the monitors, likely due to the epidural. I received a small dose of Pitocin and that was exactly what I needed to dilated to the full 10cm!

At 10cm my OB asked my nurses to start pushing with me in my room. I knew I would deliver in the Operating Room in case I needed an emergency c-section, but she thought I would feel more comfortable pushing as long as possible in my cozy room as opposed to the sterile OR. She also told me to not push the dose button on my epidural if I could because feeling the contractions would help me push. That had already been part of my birth plan so I readily agreed.

With John holding one leg and a nurse on the other, I pushed my babies down for almost an hour in the room. That hour might have been the fastest hour of my life! It seemed only minutes later I was being wheeled down to the hall to the OR!

The atmosphere in the OR was incredible. The small room was filled with people- a doctor and nurse practitioner for the babies along with a nurse for each baby, two nurses for me, John, my OB, the anesthesiologist, and a few other support people whose titles escape me now. Everyone was smiling and introducing themselves to me. I felt so safe and secure knowing all those people were there for me and my babies.

My OB had me do a few pushes and then took the contraction monitor off my belly. Until then, John or the nurse had been reading the monitor and told me when to push, but she said, "You can feel them. You're in charge. You tell us when you need to push."

I pushed with each contraction hardly believing that my babies were actually going to come out of me. They were about to be born! How long had I waited for this moment? How many times had I dreamed of exactly this? Cried with unspeakable grief at the thought that it might never happen? Prayed with more power, more desire, more desperation than most could imagine?

I pushed to the encouragement and cheers of my husband's voice. To the marvelous words, "I can see his head!"

I heard the the gentle voice of my anesthesiologist behind my head saying, "Jillian, look up." He placed a mirror above me so I could see my son being born. His small, beautiful, vernix covered body emerged from my own and my OB placed him right on my chest. His tiny cries were met by the tears of his father as I drew him close to me.

I held our baby Ira tight speaking over him words I had longed to say for many years. "My baby! My Ira. I love you. I love you! We have waited so long for you. Hi baby. Hi Ira! I love you. I love you!"

I kissed his warm body and worked to impress every detail of his birth in my memory.

I felt another contraction coming and handed Ira off to someone, preparing for the birth of my baby B. Just 11 minutes after Ira William arrived, Roman Irving followed. Again I watched as his purple wrinkled body emerged from my own and again felt the beauty of his wet, warm body close against my skin. I kissed his head as John and I welcomed him into the world like we had his brother.

Roman wasn't crying or breathing quite as strongly as his brother so his doctor came over and scooped him up to check him out. I looked over at John and he was already holding our sweet Ira, wrapped warm and tight. Roman quickly recovered and was soon back in my arms. John and I stared at our babies and each other, smitten and dreamy over our precious sons. Our boys. Our babies. Our many thousand prayers answered at last.

As I stared at Roman's precious face I heard my OB's voice growing with concern over my bleeding. She looked up at the anesthesiologist behind my head and said, "I'm going to have to go in and get the placentas."

He sprang to work upping my epidural with stronger drugs. Inwardly I thanked God for slowing my labor long enough that I could get that blessed epidural! What followed was not pretty. There was much pressing and pulling and scraping and administering of medications. Deep in new baby bliss I did not feel the gravity of the situation but poor John experienced a terrible whiplash of moving from joy to great concern over my health. I was hemorrhaging.

I heard my OB celebrate with the removal of each placenta and frustrate with the amount of membrane my body had retained. Through it all she remained calm and I never worried about her ability to handle the complication. After what must have seemed like an eternity in the room, she announced that she got it all and my bleeding had slowed.

She explained to me that I may need a blood transfusion but we would wait to see how my labs read later in the day.

Since they were premature, Ira and Roman were brought directly to the Special Care Nursery, which is like a low level NICU. John followed them to see them settled and then met me back in my room. My body shook pretty violently from the whole ordeal for about an hour and then finally began to calm down. My labs came back better than expected and I did not need a blood transfusion which was great news!

I thought I would have been very sad that my boys were in the Special Care Nursery and I was separated from them in my room, but I was so depleted from the birth and the hemorrhage that I just wanted to sleep and rest.

The next few hours passed quickly and soon I was feeling stronger and able to spend time with my beautiful, beautiful baby boys. John's mom brought Arie to the room as well and he was able to meet his brothers! My heart swells with immeasurable gratitude as I look at my three precious boys who were all so very, very deeply wanted. With all my heart, I thank God for them.

John and I are in absolute love with Ira and Roman. I cannot explain how precious their little bodies, how soft their skin, how beautiful their eyes. Loving them is already one of the greatest privileges of my life.

Ira William was born April 19, 2016 at 2:12pm weighting 5lbs 4oz and Roman Irving was born at 2:23pm weighing 6lbs even. They've been with us for 5 days now and continue to grow stronger in the Special Care Nursery. I was discharged after 2 days in the hospital and leaving them was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. John and I visit each day for at least 4-5 hours and the time passes so fast. We cannot wait to bring them home! They are both primarily learning to eat. Neither needed any IVs or respiratory assistance for which we are so grateful.

Over these last few days Psalm 126 has been on my mind and in my heart:
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
    we were like those who dreamed.
Our mouths were filled with laughter,
    our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
    “The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us,    and we are filled with joy.
Restore our fortunes, Lord,
    like streams in the Negev.
Those who sow with tears    will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
    carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
    carrying sheaves with them.

Over the years and through the heartbreak of our fertility journey we sowed with tears again and again. Now we hold our boys and look into their beautiful faces we are reaping with great joy. Indeed the LORD has done great things for us and we are filled with joy!



Twin pregnancy: week 33 in review

How far along? 34 weeks today!

Weight gain: Weighing in at 188lbs, I'm up another three pounds. And I've discovered the reason for my rapid gain over these last two weeks! Read on to discover more.

How are you feeling? Where to begin?? Lots to tell you about this week! In my last update I talked about how I was swelling. Well, on Thursday (the day after my post) I really, really started to swell. I went to bed that night almost horrified at the size of my ankles. Knowing I have an increased risk for pre-eclampsia due to carrying multiples I called my OB's office the next morning and asked if I could come in to have my blood pressure checked.

I saw a nurse and she read 126/80: perfectly fine.

I went about my weekend as usual, or "as usual" as one can when both one's belly and one's feet are 33 weeks pregnant with twins. On Monday- yesterday- I had a pre-scheduled OB appointment. When I saw my weight at that appointment I knew something was up. I have gained over 10 pounds in two weeks. I know I haven't eaten that much nor have my babies suddenly turned into beasts!

The nurse measured my blood pressure (still okay, but creeping up) and tested my urine (found a little protein).

When my OB walked in the room she had her nose in my chart and even before looking at me said, "You must be pretty swollen because I know you didn't eat enough to gain 10 pounds since I saw you last!"

I laughed and said, "Yep," holding out my ankles for her to see.

"Those are impressive. I'm going to send you right to the hospital for some monitoring. I think we're catching you at the beginning stages of pre-eclampsia."

So off the the hospital I went where the babies and I were monitored for a couple hours and I had a bunch of "levels" checked.

The babies are perfect- praise God- but my blood pressure was borderline for a few reads and I defiantly have protein in my urine. Combining those two things with my swelling, by the end of my afternoon my diagnosis was clear: I have mild pre-eclampsia.

Pre-eclampsia is one of those things that can develop quickly or slowly and it is only relieved by delivery of the babies (or, more accurately, the placentas).  I am receiving steroid shots to mature the twins' lungs in case of preterm delivery but my OB is still hoping I will make it to term at 37 weeks. I would love for you to join me in praying that my condition is slow to develop I can safely keep these babies inside for another 3 weeks!

I am doing a 24 hour urine collection test to give my OB a more specific read on how mild/severe my case is. I told John I was starting this test last night but probably should have specifically said something like, "There's a big orange jug in the fridge with my pee in it," because he definitely pulled it out excitedly thinking- in his words- that I had purchased "some kind of hip juice drink" for us! Ha! What a disappointment. Thankfully it was clearly labeled so he put it back before it reached a glass.

I'm on modified bed rest which essentially means I have to take it very, very easy. I'm allowed one "errand" each day, like going to church or picking Arie up from school. For the one millionth time in my life I am thankful for my husband John who sweetly told me, "I don't mind waiting on you until you deliver. Just tell whatever you need."

I'm making a list. ;-)

Let me segway here into my Get a Little Spiritual section here: When I married John at 21 years old I knew he was a good man but boy I did not know just how important his character and integrity would prove to be be over the first 8 years of our marriage. He has been my partner for most of it, but through our infertility treatments and now with this diagnosis he has been my caretaker. It is a very humbling thing to be taken care of in the way John has cared for me and is taking care of me. I depend on him for so much and he bears that weight with such kindness and strength. I love that man! I thank God for guiding our two young hearts and minds together in marriage 8 years ago. I could not ask for a better mate!

If there are any young unmarried women reading this blog who hope to find a spouse someday let me just tell you that the character of your partner is so very important! None of us is perfect so don't look for a perfect person, but do look for someone who is kind and compassionate, patient, quick to serve others, and hard-working. These traits in John have been some of the most important in our marriage and family life.

Noteworthy Moments: Small one, but something that made me smile: You might remember I told you a few weeks ago that Baby B has been head butting me right above my belly button, to the point where I felt like I was almost bruised inside? Well the nurse at the hospital put a monitor right there to measure if I was having any contractions and Baby B kept bumping it so hard it almost fell off! Ha! It made me smile to see my wirey little guy wiggling away inside.

Bump Shot: 

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