The Christmas Everything Post! 2015

Even in my hardest Decembers- like the one when we were waiting for Arie or last year's when we celebrated the holidays in the wake of our first failed embryo transfer- Christmas has been an occasion I cherish. As I've lived with infertility it's been the hope and the peace of the holiday that I cherish: the hope that through Jesus all things will one day be made right... and the peace that comes with that faith.

Earlier this month I was listening to a Christmas station on Pandora when a cover of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah came on. I furrowed my brow and wondered how this song was considered holiday music, but I didn't click the thumbs down icon because, well, it's Hallelujah, right? This version included a final verse that I'd never heard before (probably spent too much time listening to Jeff Buckley's cover!). When I caught the lyrics it made perfect sense to me why the song would be played at Christmas:

"And even though it all went wrong
I'll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah!"

That's the promise of Christmas I've clung to in my hardest Decembers: that even though it so often goes terribly wrong in this life I will someday stand radiant before my God with nothing left to say but simply: hallelujah!

This Christmas, however, it's not going all wrong for me. It's going all right! For the first time in a while I've approached the season not just claiming the peace and the hope of the season, but the joy. For years I've dreamed of sitting by the lights of our Christmas tree with a baby in my arms or my body and this year that dream is- almost unbelievably- a reality. This year I carried two babies with me to the Christmas farm as we picked out our tree. I hung their ornaments on the boughs of it's branches. I felt them kick and flip inside as I watched Arie and John open gifts beside it's lights. I willed them to move into more comfortable positions as I over ate at dinner and as I constantly needed to stop for a bathroom break on our 6 hour journey to my parents' in Ontario. I showed them off to my mom and sisters in the form of a quickly growing bump and enjoyed many celebratory belly rubs from Aunts and cousins at our Christmas party. What happiness.

I've shared before about the trepidation I sometimes feel bringing two lives into a world often filled with such tragedies as bitterness and war. This Christmas I felt the joy of the opposite: the blessed assurance that I am bringing these children into a world that God is redeeming. A world over which he rules. A world he is calling to himself with endless love, love beyond our wildest imaginations. Yes this can be a hard and scary place to be, this world, but it is the place God has given us and it is good to bring new lives here.

Some pictures of our joyous celebrations this Christmas:

The bottom third of lights on our fake Christmas tree stopped working last year so we took the opportunity to try a real one this season. I don't have the best record with houseplants so I was a little nervous about whether the needles would stay on the tree through December 25, but it was a smashing success! Today is December 31 and it still looks fantastic. I think we are officially Real Christmas Tree People now.

I always had a real tree growing up and hunting for that perfect pine with my family are some of my favorite childhood memories! A gift I'm thrilled to pass on to my son!

Decorating the tree was peaceful this year. We munched popcorn and sipped hot chocolate with Christmas carols playing in the background. Arie is old enough to hang even fragile ornaments without fear of breakage. We examined all the "special ones" and told their stories. "This one if from when Mama and Papa went on their honeymoon!" "Here's one from your first Christmas with us, buddy." etc.

Next year with two infants possibly crawling around decorating the tree will be a whole different story, but a beauty of it's own kind!

Since John is a pastor, Christmas morning is a busy one for our family. We opt to open our gifts together on Christmas Eve morning, which gives us both a special day together as a family as well as a special day to devote to worshiping our newborn King! Here is Arie's face on Christmas Eve morning, anticipating his gifts:
I didn't even have time to focus! Clearly I was excited as well! ;-)
A Snoopy!
Whispering what the gifts were. He couldn't hold in the secret any longer!
Homemade gift: picture of a submarine.
After church on Christmas Day we opened gifts with John's mom and sister. Arie received a huge cardboard pirate ship which combines his love of coloring with his love of pirates. It was a hit!

Note: Snoopy along for the ride! :-)

The following day we traveled to Ontario to celebrate with my family. My niece Lux was born last April and will be almost exactly a year older than our twins, who are due in May. We loved spending time with her not only because she is adorable and an extremely happy baby but also because she gave us a little window into what our Christmas will look like next year... times two!

Almost all the rest of the pictures on my camera were of Lux and Arie. Ha! I was able to pull out photos of all our family members, but the ratio made me laugh. I bet there were 10 kid pictures to every one adult. They are way cuter than us so I guess that's probably fair.

I love this next picture of my sister Jenna's husband holding his niece. The first time I met Justin it was at a Christmas a few years ago; I will never forget the feeling I had when I saw the way he watched my sister opening his gift. He looked at her with such tenderness and affection. The way he cares for his niece and nephew make me so happy; he will be an awesome father someday!

My brother and sister-in-law are so cute with their daughter. She is one of those babies whose default position is happy. She laughs easily and wants to explore everything! She is a good baby for my brother because, as my mom says, "she loves to be pestered!" She loves it when her dad pokes her nose or brushes a stuffed toy in her face. She loves being held up high and "dropped" down low or jiggled around. Apparently all those years my little brother spent pestering me actually paid off! I never would have called that one. ;-)

A highlight of Arie's Christmas is always the chocolate letter he (and we all) receive from my dad! Arie's first Christmas he was home with us just one month and we were struggling to get enough calories in him each day. He would only eat cheese, bananas, and milk. I let him eat almost the whole letter that year because I was so happy he was eating something. Ha! This year I told him only one bite, so he made it a good one:


We had a wonderful time together as a family. Every year I feel so blessed by these people and grateful that we all get along. I know not everyone has that happiness. When I watch my parents enjoying their three kids, in-laws, and two (soon to be four!) grandchildren, I can only pray that John and I  will enjoy the same with our children in 20 or 30 years.

I pray your Christmas was also filled with joy and if not joy this year, then the peace and hope we have in Christ Jesus.

I'll "see" you in the New Year! xo


Twin pregnancy: week 17 in review

How far along? 18 weeks, 1 day.

Weight gain? Up to 155lbs. Gained 2 pounds this week. Total gain: 17 pounds. My belly looks so much bigger this week. I think the twins had a growth spurt!

How are you feeling? Awesome. My nausea is only very slightly present and I'm not too tired anymore. I'm thrilled to be enjoying the holidays feeling healthy again!

Noteworthy moments: My bump is now officially big enough that strangers look at it when they see me. Sort of an "eye contact, bump glance, eye contact" move. No one has been bold enough to actually ask if I'm pregnant (which is probably good manners), but I've had a number of people strike up conversations about having children to give me an "opening" to share that I'm expecting.

As I've been seeing friends over the holidays they are all reaching out and rubbing my belly. I know some pregnant women don't like to be touched, but not me. I probably would feel weird if it was a  stranger, but for friends: touch away! I've waited so long for this. Each touch of my belly is a tiny celebration of many answered prayers.

Get a little spiritual: Last summer I wrote a post called "Living in a pit with a heavenly view" in which I likened the experience of infertility to being stuck in a big hole in the ground. I wrote about my efforts to keep my eyes focused upward on the heavens, even as I wept in the pit. It still makes me cringe to remember.

Now that I have passed the first trimester fear of miscarriage and the consuming fatigue and nausea of the last few months, the joy of my freedom from infertility is truly making itself known. I am out of the pit! I am walking above ground! I can feel the sun! I am free to go wherever I please. My heavy heart is light again. My sadness has lifted. I feel free! 

Years ago I heard a sermon about the new earth in which the pastor described the special joys those who have lived with loss will feel. The blind will see! We will all see, of course, but the blind will have a special joy in seeing. The lame will walk! We will all walk, but the lame will have a joy we will not know when their feet finally touch the ground. Today I feel as though I am experiencing a small picture of that joy: while millions of women have a child growing inside them today, I have a special kind of joy because of the pain I once felt. Not only do I get to know the joy of pregnancy, I get to know the joy of being freed from infertility. I thank God for this gift.

The freedom I now I claim has not only freed me from something, but also for something. The energy that was once drained from me in grief is now mine to direct in a multitude of ways. Currently I am working with a refugee ministry through my church. I never would have had the emotional reserves to commit to a ministry like this when I was submerged in the dark pit of infertility. Now I am free to serve others as I draw from the well of joy I have overflowing from the gift of answered prayers.

This is truly a blessed season of my life and I am grateful!

Bump shot: 



Twin pregnancy: week 16 in review

How far along? Today I'm 17 weeks, 2 days. Getting to this week's update late due to having been sick. Still a little stuffed up today but feeling much better.

Weight gain: 153lbs: total gain 15lbs. No gain this week.

How are you feeling: Let the clouds part, a sunbeam shine down on me, and the peoples rejoice because my nausea is almost gone!!! I feel like a new person! Actually I feel like my old self again which feel just plain fantastic.

In other pregnancy symptoms I am already huffing and puffing over small physical tasks like flights of stairs. It's quite comical. I'm only 17 weeks! I don't think this bodes well for my future. I wonder how much those stair chairs for senior citizens cost?? ;-)

Noteworthy moments: I am starting to feel the babies! I was sitting on my couch last week and I kept feeling this little tickle on my belly, sort of like a fly landed on me. I "brushed it off" a few times without really thinking about it and then left my hand where the tickle kept happening. When I felt it again with my hand on my skin I realized that feeling was coming from the inside! I told John about it but I wasn't quite sure I knew what I was feeling yet. Well, it's been happening for the last week and the sensations are getting stronger. It feels like bubbles or the brush of a butterfly wing. I asked on Facebook what you guys thought and forty-something of you confirmed yes I probably am feeling the babies! What a lovely milestone! I will enjoy these small movements while I can because I know toward the end they will probably be quite uncomfortable!

Get a little spiritual: As we approach Christmas I've been reflecting on the story of Jesus' conception and birth. One of the things I believe about the scriptures is that they are "living and active" which in part means that I can read the same passage a hundred times and then one day it will hit me in a way it never has before. This week I felt that way about Mary's song in Luke 1. Mary's song is composed of the words she speaks after an angel tells her she has conceived Jesus through the Holy Spirit. In Luke 1:49 she says, "The Mighty One has done great things for me- Holy is his name."

Those are the words on my heart this Christmas. Both in this temporal way through the blessing of pregnancy and in the eternal way of my salvation I can declare with Mary: The Mighty One has done great things for me! Holy is his name.

Bump Shot: (This is me at 16.5 weeks, my belly already measuring 22 weeks pregnant!)



Twin pregnancy: gender reveal!

I'm guessing you are just going to scroll past anything I write up here so let's get right to the point! Yesterday I had an ultrasound where we hoped to learn the sex of our babies. Today is my 30th birthday and I was really hoping our babies would give me a gift by revealing themselves. Happy to say that they did!

Baby A:

And Baby B:


I was DEAD WRONG with my guess of two girls! Ha! John and I are thrilled. After the ultrasound I walked around with the dorkiest grin on my face all day. Two precious little baby boys! What a gift. 

The sonographer did tell us we would have to confirm at our 20 week ultrasound, but she seemed pretty confidant. Based on her tone of voice and body language I'd say she was sure baby A is a boy and about 80-90% sure Baby B is also a boy. With this being a twin pregnancy I'll have lots of ultrasounds and plenty of opportunity to double check! 

We gave Arie a gift bag with blue baby shoes in it to reveal the news to him. His face broke out into a grin when he found out he is going to have two brothers! His first exclamation was, '"I KNEW IT! I TOLD YOU!" which is not even true (he guessed one boy and one girl), but we just laughed and enjoyed his pleasure. I told him I'm so happy to have more boys because I love being a boy-mom to him! 

John and I had one boy name in mind already and we are having fun talking about a second name, plus middle names. We are going to keep the names a secret until the birth. 

I haven't gotten the official report back from my OB yet but from what we saw and what the sonographer could share, both babies were looking great! It's amazing how much they change month-to-month in the womb. They are already four inches long and we could see their little fingers and toes on the screen. 

Here's my week-in-review:

How far along? 16 weeks today!

Weight gain: Up to 153, total gain: 15 lbs. By the end of my second trimester I'm betting I will weigh as much as my husband! I'm trying to convince him to put on some sympathy weight so I don't feel so huge next to him. ;-) So far he's not buying it. 

How are you feeling: Starting to feel a little better in the last few days! Less tired, and my nausea has reduced to the point where I am starting to cook meals again. Woo hoo! Feels fantastic to be getting somewhat back to "normal"... or, as normal as one can be with two humans inside. 

Noteworthy moments: Finding out the sexes of our babies! Also going shopping for baby boy clothes immediately after.

Get a little spiritual: One of my first thoughts after I found out that our babies are both boys was how incredibly grateful I am for my husband. I feel confidant raising three boys with him. I hope and pray our boys become the kind of man John is! I love so many things about him: his confidence, his sense of humor, his strong conviction, his humility, his loyalty... and I would call him "a man after God's own heart." I love watching him lead our church and preach every week with passion and conviction. He is the best partner I could imagine for my life! I thank God for bringing us together in marriage almost 8 years ago. 

Belly shot: Haven't taken one this week yet! Will plug it in here when I do it.



Twin pregnancy: week 14 in review

Today's "week in review" is going to be a quick one because I have made myself too busy today! This weekend I got my birthday present early (I turn 30 on December 8th): a Kitchen Aid stand mixer. Woo hoo! So pumped about it. Thank you John, Mom-in-law, and parents for the awesome gift!

So now that I have this awesome mixer I OBVIOUSLY had to re-arrange and re-organize my whole entire kitchen.

Current kitchen state: disaster.

Current mental state: whyyyyyyyyy did I start this!?

Hopefully I can get everything back in order before John comes home and sees my crazy all over the counters and table and chairs and floor.

Anyway, here's my update:

How far along? 15 weeks today!

Weight gain: Up to 151lbs, total gain 13lbs. If you're keeping track you'll notice I gained 2lbs last week rather than my usual 1lb. Maybe I ate too much pumpkin pie over Thanksgiving. (Yes I did.)

How are you feeling: Slightly less tired than in past weeks, still just as nauseated.

Noteworthy moments: Got to hear the babies' heartbeats again last week! I didn't write down the pace and I can't remember but they were both fantastic.

Next week I will be having a 16 week ultrasound and may find out the sex of the babies, if they cooperate! I'm so very super really hoping they do! I still think it is two girls, although I had a dream about the babies being born and it was two boys! Divine revelation!?  Well, I also had a dream that each baby was actually half of the same baby and it had to be sewn together after birth... so maybe I shouldn't take my dreams too seriously.

John thinks one boy and one girl and Arie's guess is the same. Leave me a comment with your guess!

Get a little spiritual: Simply feeling very grateful and happily enjoying the holiday season. John, Arie, and I went and cut down a real live Christmas tree this year (previously we have always done fake). I took some picture of that adventure which I hope to post on Thursday! I'm always pretty emotional around Christmas because my faith means so much to me, but this year even more so. I don't feel hormonally emotional, just very much aware of how dark our lives can be- how dark mine felt last year- and desperately we need the light of Christ.

I love John 1:5, "The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it." How good it is to claim that light in the midst of all our struggles and believe that the darkness will never overcome!

Bump shot: (Didn't put the green shirt on today. I refer to my kitchen project and NO TIME FOR CHANGING.)

Well my kitchen calls! Thanks for reading!



Twin pregnancy: week 13 in review

How far along? 14 weeks today! Officially in the second trimester. More than 1/3rd of the way to meeting our babies!

Weight gain: Up to 149lbs. Gained a pound since last week, total gain: 11 pounds. I'm officially the heaviest I've ever been! My face is already looking rather round to me these days. I wonder what it will look like by the end.

How are you feeling: No relief from the nausea in sight, sorry to say! I'm just plugging along taking it one day at a time.

I notice my bump now! If I'm sitting down and try to bend over to pick something up from the floor it feels like it is "in the way." It's not really in the way yet, but that's the best I can describe it. It feels "present."

I can pretty much only sleep on my sides now, but I'm mostly a side sleeper anyway so no big deal. Comfort-wise I am sleeping fine, but I do wake up 3-5 times each night to pee. Good grief. I imagine this is only going to get worse too!

One other pregnancy symptom I've developed is a bad taste in my mouth. I've tried to think how I can describe it but I just can't find the words. It just tastes bad. I don't like to chew gum so I just brush my teeth a lot. If you have any advice for minimizing the bad taste please let me know!

And speaking of teeth, for those of you who had nausea in your pregnancy, what did you do about the dentist? I'm about a month overdue for a cleaning. I've been putting it off because having someone work on my mouth when I feel like throwing up does not sound fun! However I can't imagine I'm going to find the time when I'm nursing infant twins either. Is there a way to get a dental cleaning where they don't put anything in your mouth!? ;-)

Noteworthy moments: Any of you who have been through infertility know how hard Christmas can be. Last year at Christmas time we had just lost our first two embryos. We hung a special ornament on the tree in their honor, one given to us in their memory. We haven't set up our tree yet, but we did go out to buy some lights and decor. While we were shopping we found the sweetest pairs of baby moccasin ornaments. We purchased two to hang on our tree in anticipation of their arrival! I cannot tell you how much joy I feel this Christmas, knowing that the emptiness I felt last year has been replaced with fullness and expectation. We have so much to rejoice over this year!

Get a little spiritual: This weekend we had our first snow here in West Michigan. John, Arie, and I took advantage of the picturesque beauty to take some photos for our Christmas card. After we shot the ones of our family I asked John to take one of me with my bump. Here it is:

It's embarrassing how long I've stared at this picture, but it hasn't been out of narcissism. It's because I can hardly believe that is me in the picture! I think back over the years when I feared I would never take a picture like this, never see my belly grow, never know what it was like to grow a life inside; that fear was dark and painful and absolutely hollowing. I wanted this pregnancy desperately.

And now I have it. Times two.

It feels miraculous.

Well it feels terrible physically, but spiritually it feels miraculous. This picture is so precious to me because when I look at it I can remove myself from the nausea and see this pregnancy for the truly beautiful thing that it is.

The LORD has been so gracious to me and I am eternally grateful for this gift.



Twin pregnancy: week 12 in review

How far along? 13 weeks today!

Weight gain: 148lbs, total gain 10lbs.  According to my twin book my weight-gain recommendation by now is between 12-18 lbs. I'm a little under that, but pretty close! I know I'm eating well so I'm happy.

How are you feeling? Still so nauseated. Spent Sunday morning throwing up and was bummed to miss church. Also had an LOL moment with Arie on Sunday: I came out of the bathroom all sweaty and pale from puking and told him, "Arie, Mama is throwing up so I don't think we're going to make it to church."

Arie literally cheered.

Not even a fleeting moment of empathy for his poor, pukey mom. Not an ounce of disappointment about missing church. SIGH. Five year olds.

I'm starting to have food aversions. First trimester I noticed I didn't really want sweets which is unusual for me, but mostly I was dealing with cravings more than aversions. Now that I'm bordering on the second trimester almost nothing sounds good to me. Normally my list of dislikes includes rosemary, hoppy beers.... and that's about it. I love all food without discrimination. Now I am developing a whole new empathy for picky eaters!

Even though nothing sounds good, once I start eating I generally appreciate whatever is on my plate. I'm feeling super thankful that I can still eat feed my babies even with the nausea and food aversions!

Noteworthy moments: I got to hear the babies' heartbeats for the first time! On the first day of my 12th week I had an OB appointment and she pulled out the doppler. Up until that point I had only seen the heartbeats on the ultrasound screen. Hearing them was an incredible experience and made this pregnancy feel that much more real!

Get a little spiritual: With it being National Adoption Awareness Month, I have been thinking a lot about Arie's birth mom. Arie was born June 7 and these babies are due May 24. Arie did come a little early, but generally speaking I am experiencing this pregnancy at roughly the same time she was expecting Arie six years ago. I'm not really sure how to describe what that feels like... it's tender and special and sad and poignant and treasured all at the same time.

Bump shot: I never know what to do with my face in these pictures. I'm sorry I'm so awkward.


Twin pregnancy: week 11 in review

How far along? 12 weeks today! I'm either done my first trimester or I'm in the last week of it... the internet is unclear about that. What say you readers?

Weight gain: I'm up to 147 which means I gained a pound this week. Total gain is now 9lbs.

How are you feeling? Unfortunately worse than last week. To borrow and revise a line from Psalm 88: "Nausea is my closest friend." I asked a bunch of twin moms when their nausea subsided and most said somewhere between 13-20 weeks. So I *could* be close to feeling better! I also could be far away. I'm staying positive and believing I'll soon feel some relief. In either case every day is one day closer to feeling better... right?! ;-)

I know I write this every post but it bears repeating: I would trade pregnancy nausea in a HEARTBEAT for infertility. Yes is SUCKS and yes I've cried over the frustration of now 7 weeks of constant nausea (mostly about having to cancel doing so many things I wish I could do but just don't feel up for) but compared to the pain of infertility? Oh heavens. I'd take this over that any day!  

Noteworthy moments: John and I like to do this thing where we hug and kiss (peck) in front of Arie. Usually we are standing in the kitchen and Arie is at the table. I remember when my mom used to rub my dad's back and kiss his cheek exclaiming, "I love this man!"we kids we would be all, "YOU GUYS STOP!" but secretly inside we relished seeing our parents in love. Even before we were married, John and I talked about wanting to be affectionate in front of our kids to give them that same sense of warmth and security. Last week we were hugging and Arie was giggling at us like he usually does when John exclaimed, "Hey I can feel your belly!"

It felt like a milestone! My belly is still small but protruding enough that John could feel it as we hugged! Arie ran over to us wanting to see and feel. The next day he was watching me work in the kitchen again and said, "I can see your belly Mom! I'm going to call you 'pregnant mama' now!" It just all feels so special.

Get a little spiritual: This might get a little intense. Prepare thyself.

One feeling I am experiencing this pregnancy that I did not have at all when we were in the process of adopting Arie is this huge weightiness of what it means to bring a child (or, in my case, children) into the world. Not in the practical sense of "How am I going to provide for these babies?" but in a rather heart-wrenching way of "What kind of world am I bringing these children into?"

I'll listen to the news and hear about wars, about refugees, about disease, about abuse, about death and have these thoughts like, "Oh my God. This is the world I'm bringing life into?!" Then I think about all the suffering my loved ones have experienced... and I have experienced... and that my children will experience... and it gets a little dark.

Now I realize since I believe that life begins at conception these two babies were, in reality, already in the world before I became pregnant with them. My brains knows that. My heart still struggles.

Two weeks ago I had a bit of an ugly cry when I saw this quote from Frederick Buechner on my Facebook feed:

"Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen.
Don't be afraid." 
I read that quote and immediately visualized holding my babies in the hospital, welcoming them into the world with these words. They reminded me of one of my favorite verses from scripture where Jesus says, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).

I shared the post on my Facebook page and somehow started to feel better about my whole "What kind of world am I bringing these children into!?" fear.

As so often happens to me this gentle sense of, "It's going to be okay." was solidly affirmed a few days later at a church event where we sang one of my all-time favorite hymns This is my Father's World. 

There's a line in the third verse that I've honestly never been able to sing without a crack in my voice:

This is my Father's world
Oh let me not forget
that though the wrong seems oft' so strong
God is the ruler yet! 

The wrong DOES seem oft' so strong, doesn't it? It means so much to me that this song doesn't deny that reality. BUT indeed God is the ruler yet! He has not left us in our suffering. He is here with us and he promises that he is in the process of making- as the song says- heaven and earth ONE.

Today when that, "Oh my God. What kind of world am I bringing these babies into?" fear creeps up like bile in my throat, I swallow hard and boldly proclaim, "This is my Father's world!"

Bump shot: 
12 weeks pregnant with twins!
Thanks for reading! xo


Twin pregnancy: week 10 in review

How far along? I'm 11 weeks today. That means I am officially done taking progesterone! Woot woot!

Weight gain: 146lbs, total gain of 8 lbs so far. I would have liked to see the scale go up a little more this week, but I am eating well so I guess my body just doesn't need more yet!

How are you feeling? SAME. Tired and nauseated. Getting bored of that answer? Me too. I did have two days last week where I felt like I had a "good day." Less nausea, was able to get more done around the house... but it's now back in full force. I even threw up this morning which marks my first pregnancy puking experience. Milestone moment! As much as I am looking forward to feeling better, I say a daily prayer of gratitude for this constant reminder of the life growing inside of me. It feels so good to feel so bad!

Noteworthy moments: I had my first OB appointment. I think I am going to really like my OB. She has lots of experience with both twins and treating my blood clotting disorder (FVL). At my appointment we spent a lot of time talking about how to best address my FVL. After my appointment she took the time to print off a recent academic literature review about FVL and pregnancy so I could read it and made some decisions about my course of treatment. I was so impressed that she wanted to empower me and help me understand my options. I felt respected. A great start to this important relationship!

Get a little spiritual: John and I want to give each of our children a "life verse." It's a verse that we read over them at their baptism, a verse that we hope will serve as a guide and encouragement to them in their lives. Arie's life verse is Isaiah 43:19, "See I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland."

I've been keeping an ear/eye out for verses that I think would serve our twins well. I think over the course of this pregnancy I'll start making a list and by the time they are baptized, we will have decided. Last week Sunday John read a verse that is the first one to make the list!

John 7:37-38, "Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink! Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them."

When I heard that verse I thought that is exactly what I want for my children. To be quenched with the love of Christ and, in turn, to be a source of that love for those who need it. As I'm typing this I'm realizing too that both this verse and Arie's life verse share a water motif. Perhaps I should start looking for a third water verse for our third child!

Have any of you given something like a "life verse" to your children? Share in the comments!

Bump shot:

I know last week I said I was going to wear the same clothes each week and take a bump picture. Here's the truth: I'm still in my pajamas. I feel like throwing up. I just don't even have the energy to take that picture for you. So this is a picture from instagram two days ago! You can see my belly is really starting to show! Yay!



Twin pregnancy: week 9 in review

How far along: I have entered the double digits and I am now 10 weeks pregnant! I am D-O-N-E taking estrogen and I only have one more week left on progesterone. It's a tad nerve wracking to go off these medications which have been supporting my pregnancy but it mostly (99%) feels awesome to think that after all.these.years of infertility my body will finally know what to do on its own!

Weight gain: I'm up to 145lbs, so I only gained a couple ounces last week. HOWEVER we went "trunk or treating" at Arie's school last week and he got a coupon for a free cup of frozen yogurt at my favorite frozen yogurt place! So sometime this week I will have to take him for that treat and make up for lost poundage. ;-)

How are you feeling: More of the same. Nauseated and tired.

On Sunday I completed a freezer meal workshop with my friend Sara who sells WildTree products (super yummy, free of junk seasonings/sauces/mixes/spices/etc). Normally I set aside an hour every afternoon to prepare a healthy meal; feeding my family is something that I take pleasure in and that is important to me. Since I started feeling nauseated I haven't been able to cook at all. It's been frustrating. We've had friends bring us dinner and we've been eating a lot of store-bought freezer meals (cringe). I'm thrilled to have a freezer full of healthy, homemade meals again! (And I would like to take a moment to thank my awesome husband John who did all the grocery shopping and helped me with the raw-meat prep!) I think our stockpile will carry me through the end of my first trimester at which time I am planning to feel better... hopefully.

Noteworthy moments: I made a major dent in collecting maternity clothes! I got some from friends and some from thrift shops. My belly isn't quite big enough to warrant them yet, but my regular jeans are uncomfortable so I'm mostly wearing leggings. It's getting quite cold here in Michigan though and leggings are starting to feel a little too light! I probably will regret wishing this when I'm a large barge later in my pregnancy, but I hope I fit into my maternity jeans soon!

Of even greater note: I had my 10 week ultrasound yesterday! It was my first abdominal ultrasound and my first time having to drink a torturous amount of water to fill up my bladder for a "better picture." On the phone the nurse told me to drink 32 ounces and hold it for an hour. Ummm... what!? I would probably have peed on the table even before pregnancy. On my written instructions it said to drink 20-24 ounces, which is probably more reasonable... for people who aren't pregnant. I already have to pee every hour, so I drank about 18 ounces 45 minutes before the ultrasound and it was perfectly fine. Well, the picture was fine. I still really, really had to pee.

John was meeting me at the OB's office and I texted him, "I'm going in early and if they can see me before you get there I'm doing it because I CAN'T HOLD IT ANY LONGER!" He did miss the first few minutes but it was worth it just to pee a few minutes sooner. Do they make you hold you pee for every ultrasound, even later into the pregnancy? Please tell me no!

Anyway. Moving on from the bladder to the uterus: there are two healthy little babies in there! This ultrasound was my favorite so far. The babies actually look like babies now as opposed to blobs and even better, we could see them moving around! John was amazed watching them and asked, "Can't you feel that Jill!?" Nope, not yet. The sonographer said I would feel them between 16-20 weeks, but maybe earlier since they are twins. I turn 16 weeks pregnant on my 30th birthday! I'm going to go ahead and request fetal movement as my gift.

This ultrasound was also different for me in an emotional way: during my first two ultrasounds the primary emotion I felt was relief but for this one it was happiness. I have been very patient with myself as I let all the fear of loosing these babies slowly and surely fall away. I knew the day would come when I finally felt like I was actually going to meet these babies and yesterday was that day! The fear is substantially diminished and joy is taking its place! I know many of you have been praying for me and I thank you. The LORD hears your prayers and has been so good to me.

Baby A was measuring 8 days ahead at 11 weeks (ultrasound was done 9 weeks 6 days) and had a heartbeat of 161.
Baby B was measuring 7 days ahead at 10 weeks 6 days and had a heartbeat of 172.  Both great measurements and numbers!

Tomorrow I will meet my OB for the first time! This is a very important relationship to me so I am hoping she and I have a good rapport.

Get a little spiritual: Through my infertility I resonated deeply with the first half of this verse from Proverbs 13:12, "Hope deferred makes the heart sick." I can't tell you how many times I have spoken that sentence aloud in my prayers and wondered how long I would walk around heartsick. After my ultrasound yesterday I opened my bible and read the second half of that verse, "...but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life." It is almost beyond me to tell you how exactly that describes what I am experiencing! My sick heart is healing and in its place grows a tree of life. I feel like I am coming back to life, better and stronger than before. I praise God for walking me through the valleys of the last two years. How beautiful it is to be on the other side!

Bump shot: My first bump shot! Pretty wild that I'm already starting to show at 10 weeks but I guess that's normal for twins. I can tell it really is the babies too because my stomach is firm, not just puffy like it is when I'm bloated and swollen from my meds.

I'm wearing maternity clothes in this picture so I can continue to wear the same thing as my belly grows. Well, until I outgrow it at least!



Twin pregnancy: week 8 in review

I'm nine weeks pregnant today! This is only my third weekly pregnancy update and I already don't know what to say, so I'm going to try out a new format. Tell me if you like it or hate it.

How far along: Nine weeks. Slowly and surely creeping toward the second trimester. I only have one more week left of post-FET (frozen embryo transfer) estrogen and two more of progesterone! Woo hoo! Leaving those medications behind feels like another step away from the world of infertility and it feels so good to be getting closer to those milestones!

Weight gain: My pre-pregnancy, pre-FET weight was 138 (and I'm 5'8"). I didn't weight myself during the cycle because I always gain weight on the medications and I was grouchy about it but trying to hope it would be worth it. AND IT WAS! So I'm guessing my pre-transfer weight was somewhere between 140-142.  According to my bathroom scale, today I'm almost 145 lbs.

I've been doing a lot of reading about weight gain for twin pregnancies and apparently it is a pretty big deal. To quote one of my twin pregnancy books: "No one should ever tell a pregnant mother of multiples not to gain weight!" Well then.

I'm supposed to gain between 40-56 pounds (woah) and most of that should be in the first 1/2 - 2/3 of the pregnancy (double woah). That's a goal weight of about 180-196 pounds or about 1-1.5 lbs per week. So if you take my pre-pregnancy weight of 138, I've gained almost 7 pounds and I'm now 9 weeks along.... and those first two weeks (pre-ovulation) you're not even technically pregnant so I think I'm right on track! 7 pounds in 7 weeks.

How are you feeling: Same as last week: nauseated and tired! Plus I am now getting up 3-4 times each night to pee which adds to my fatigue. I guess my body is already preparing me to get up for late night nursing sessions! Despite being nauseated all the time, I'm hungry all the time. I joked on my Facebook page that so far pregnancy feels like how I'd imagine having a parasite feels, only with way more happiness! My doctor told me to eat frequent small meals. Weeeeeellll... I'm doing frequent large meals. My nausea is most manageable when my belly is full. On the bright side, this will help with my weight gain, right??

Also I'm always thirsty. That's probably why I'm always peeing.

Noteworthy moments: John and I scored a mint condition second hand glider off craigslist last week! It's sitting in the room that will become the nursery and our cat has enjoyed its comforts very much this week.
"Thank you for my new cat chair." 
We were deeply moved by the adoption team at our church who bought IKEA crib I wanted (matching Arie's old one) and surprised us with it as a gift on Sunday! We felt so loved! With the glider, the cribs, and the dresser we bought last week we now have everything we need for the nursery! Once I feel better we'll get to painting and setting up. I can't wait!

Get a little spiritual: During our struggle with infertility I felt incredibly needy and vulnerable before God. Subconsciously I think I expected those feelings to fade once I found myself pregnant, but (of course) they haven't subsided at all. Now I feel vulnerable as I carry these babies inside. It's really hit me these past few weeks how the total dependency I feel on my Father is not a temporary problem to get through, but the actual true reality of my state of being. My infertility didn't make me dependent on God; it just made me realize how dependent I've always been and always will be. I've switched from seeing my vulnerability before him as a weakness and started seeing it as a strength. When I feel small and scared I thank Him for being my strength, no matter how weak I am! 

Surely God is my salvation;
    I will trust and not be afraid.
The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense;
    he has become my salvation.

Isaiah 12:2 

Bump shot: Not yet! Although I am now uncomfortable in my jeans, so *something* is happening in there.  I bet I'll be showing soon! 



My little artist

From the first day John and I met Arie in his orphanage, we noticed right away that he tended toward blocks, puzzles: toys he had to build, put together, or figure out. My dad always said he had the mind of an engineer. Over the last year he has taken more and more initiative with crafts, creating things from gathered toilet paper tubes, saved boxes and envelopes from the mail, and roll after roll (after roll after roll) of washi tape.

The things he draws, builds, paints, and glues together amaze me! The other day he busied himself in the kitchen and a few minutes later walked into the room where I was announcing, "Look what I made!" He had cut a continuous spiral from a piece of paper so it hung down like a long swirly slide.

"How did you know how to cut that shape?!" I asked.

"When I was in bed and I couldn't sleep I thought about it and I told myself, 'Tomorrow I will make it.'"

I'm no expert on child development but I feel like a five-year-old conceptualizing a spiral on his own is pretty good!

What John and I are learning about Arie is this: he's a maker.

He loves to create. Whether it's building a city with duplo blocks, working on a puzzle, or painting scenes from his imagination, he lives for making. 

He takes great pride in it too. This past weekend we visited my parents in Ontario for Thanksgiving and Arie brought a whole box filled with gifts he had made. There were drawings, there was a  paper puppet, there were "candy canes" made from pipe-cleaners twisted and bent together. Even the box the gifts came in was painted. (Related: our cat Jasper jumped into that box before it was dry and walked around for almost a week with a big white acrylic paint streak on his side!) Arie barely made it inside the door after our six hour drive to my parents before ripping open the box and handing out the gifts with great ceremony.
Painting the gift box.
On the drive home from school Wednesday Arie grinned as he told me, "Mom today we painted and I didn't have ANY white left on my paper and my teachers showed the WHOLE CLASS my paper because I didn't have ANY WHITE on the whole thing!!!"

He could have told me he graduated from Harvard and I couldn't have been more proud. NO WHITE ON THE WHOLE PAPER! Did you hear that people!?

A few weeks ago we took Arie to a big local art event where he was able to see what it looks like to be a "grown up artist." We've taken him for three years now and this year I noticed a big difference in his experience of the art. He was much more interested in looking at paintings and interpreting them. I spent time asking him both, "What do you see?" and "How does it make you feel?"

Last year, at four-years-old, he was happy to run from one piece to the next, like it was a race to see as much as he could. This year he stopped to study a few pieces that caught his attention, wanting to talk about them, make sense of them. One particular piece fascinated him so much I had to drag him away after ten minutes! I think he could have stood before it the whole afternoon. His little brain is just starting to grasp things like metaphor and imagery.
This artist- Roy Clark- was so kind to Arie! He had sunglasses similar to Arie's and he put them on to connect with him. Arie said, "We both have glasses and we BOTH artists!" Haha! 

Watching Arie's particular gift set become more and more clear has been so exciting as a parent! I remember our facilitator in Russia telling us stories of children adopted from Moscow and what they had grown up to do; even then I looked at Arie and wondered who he would become. Now that we are starting to get these glimpses into his interests and abilities, I've also felt a great sense of responsibility.

There's an often misinterpreted verse in the Bible that says, "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is older he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6). We frequently take that to mean that if you teach a child to live well, he won't make mistakes. We all know this isn't true! I've heard a number of pastors explain that this verse is better translated, "Train up a child according to his own bent and when he is older he will not depart from it."

In other words, each of our children arrive on earth with their own way of learning, experiencing, and contributing the world. As parents we do well to discover that "bent" and help our children bloom within it.

I tell Arie that God gives each of us gifts. "I think maybe the gift God gave you is to be an artist!" We talk about how when God gives us a gift, it makes him so happy to see us use it. Arie absolutely beams when I tell him this. At five-years-old he has taken his responsibility as an artist very seriously. He tells me almost every day after school, "Well Mom, my job is to be an artist so I better get working!" He pulls out paint and glitter and glue at the kitchen table and sets to making crafts for everyone he knows.

Sometimes I get a little grouchy about having to clean up after these messy art-filled afternoons (like the time Arie used a chair instead of the table for a glitter project and I walked around with sparkles on my butt for days), but mostly...

mostly I love watching my little boy grow into his gifts.

Maybe he'll stick with art into adulthood. Maybe this is a phase and he'll switch directions as he grows. In any case I think the important thing he is learning is to use his gifts, to delight in them, to bless others with them, and to develop them.

What about you? When did your kids start showing you what their gifts and interests are? Do you remember how you discovered your own gift set?


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