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?



Twin pregnancy: week 7 in review

This morning I had my eight week ultrasound. I was just about as nervous for this one as for my six week ultrasound, cold sweating on the table as John and I waited for the doc to enter the exam room. (Related, if any inventors read this blog here's a suggestion: exam table paper that doesn't stick when you have to "scoot down." JUST SAYING.)

Nerves quickly gave way to a flood of relief when the image of our babies lit up the screen! Two flickering hearts and fluttering bodies, living and growing just as they should be.

Baby A was measuring 4 days ahead of schedule and had a heartbeat of 178 (they look for a pace of between 120-180 BPM).

Baby B was measuring 3 days ahead of schedule and had a heartbeat of 180.

Both perfect, both exceeding expectations already! You can keep that up, babies.
John with his babies! Grabbing lunch after the ultrasound.

With that ultrasound behind us I have officially GRADUATED from the fertility center! What a strange feeling it was to leave that office behind. The waiting area, exam tables, procedure spaces, consult offices... they have become a constant character in our lives over the past two years. It feels surreal to think that the next time we walk those hallways it will be to show off our infant twins to the doctors and staff who helped make their lives happen. Amazing! What a happy day that will be. That office will always have a special place in my heart.

Symptom-wise I'm feeling about the same: nauseated and tired. I'm dealing with the fatigue worse (pretty much ready to cry at 8pm when I really should just be going to bed!) and the nausea better (eating all the live-long day so something is always in my stomach! Really helps make the nausea more manageable).

Medication-wise I've got two weeks of estrogen left and three weeks of progesterone. I will be so happy to be done with those! I'll be on my Lovenox (blood thinner) shots for the rest of the pregnancy. The last week worth of shots have littered my stomach with dark, angry bruises which in my volatile emotional state were really disturbing me. However after some research last night I think I found a way to lessen the bruising. I know I have some Lovenox-using readers; please leave me your tips if you have any!

While we visited my family in Ontario for Thanksgiving this weekend, John and I went to IKEA with my mom. We bought a dresser for the babies' room (former guest room) and a toy storage shelf for our playroom which will be converted to a combination playroom/office/guest room (can we pull that off???). We have an IKEA crib which we used as a toddler bed for Arie; we wanted to buy a matching one but IKEA WAS OUT OF CRIBS! Crazy! Not just the one we were at, either.... all of IKEA. At least, all of IKEA in Canada. I hope they re-stock by Christmas. Otherwise Arie's plan of getting a bunk bed and having the babies sleep on the bottom just may come to fruition. ;-)

All for now!



Pregnancy week 6, in review

As of yesterday I am 7 weeks pregnant! My pregnancy feels vulnerable in these early weeks and each day that passes without issue feels like something worth celebrating! According to the internet my babies are now the size of blueberries which for some reason I find much more reassuring than last week when they were the size of pomegranate seeds. It's like the more space they take up physically the more real this pregnancy feels. I am starting to believe that this is indeed really, truly, finally happening! 

John and I had so much fun sharing our news with everyone. Thank you for your amazing comments and congratulatory messages! We read every single one. It has been a humbling experience to share the lows and now the highs of this journey with you. You are all teaching me how to love and be loved. I'm deeply grateful for those of you who have committed to pray for a healthy, full term pregnancy. My prayer is to gestate these babies for at least 36 weeks. Thank you for joining me in that prayer!

While my mind and heart have been completely washed and overwhelmed with happiness and gratitude, my body has not seemed to get the good news message. Rather it has interpreted pregnancy as flu, which I hear is pretty common. "To celebrate," says my body, "I give you nausea and exhaustion! Enjoy!" Come on, body! Be happy like the rest of me! ;-)

Actually I have to tell you that while being nauseous 24/7 is not what I would call "enjoyable," it has almost completely relieved me of my anxiety over this pregnancy. It is so reassuring to have strong pregnancy symptoms. It is a constant reminder that something is indeed happening in there! For that I am very, very grateful.

As far as food aversions and cravings go, it's mostly aversions. One thing I have been eating a lot is potatoes. Normally I'm not big on potatoes but they seem to settle my stomach. I've also been enjoying pickles but that's not really new for me. I haven't been able to cook since I started feeling nauseous. We've been eating many freezer meals. Yesterday I picked up a rotisserie chicken at the grocery store and I felt like super woman. Grocery shopping while nauseous... that's going up on my list of proudest life accomplishments. CAME AND CONQUERED!

The two FAQs I keep getting are "What is your due date?" and "Any guesses on the sex of the babies?" So my due date is May 24 but since I'm carrying twins I'll likely deliver a few weeks early. I'm just saying I'm "due in May." Any as far as guessing the sex, from the time I saw the pictures of the embryos I felt that they were two girls. I can also picture them as a boy/girl pair. If they are two boys I will be shocked but incredibly happy! I love being a "boy mom." You can probably imagine that after everything we went through to conceive, the sex of the babies doesn't matter to us. We are just excited to find out! And yes we will be finding out at our 20 week ultrasound!

I hope to include a weekly... or more realistically an occasional... bump shot as I record pregnancy updates. I tried to take one yesterday but I look about as crappy as I feel and truly there is nothing to see yet. I have a pretty long torso so it might take a while. But then again there are two babies in there so maybe not? We'll see. When there's something to see I'll take a picture!

Next week I have my 8 week ultrasound. I can't wait to see my babies again! :-D

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