Thursday, December 13, 2012

Untitled Night Composition No. 1

I wish I could record a full sensory memory of having these girls asleep with me. Resting on the big nursing pillow in a double football hold, loads of legs sprawled out behind us. Fuzzy little heads inclined toward each other. Hands on me, in each other's faces, sticking out in random places. Happy sleep sighs. Fat orange cat purring on my legs, ready to run off as soon as I unbuckle the pillow. We do this when we go to bed around 10:00, and then again, these days, around 4:00AM. With a singleton, I would roll over, half asleep, and let her nurse, but I am forced, for now, to hoist my pillow from beside the bed, sit up, feed them, unbuckle the pillow, and settle back down with a daughter in each arm. It may sound inconvenient, but these are probably my last babies, and I am a little bit grateful for being mostly awake to drink it in.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Two Little Bees: A Birth Story

Here I am, nearly four months removed from my daughters' birth day. We're all pretty fantastic. They have lovely Welsh first names like their big sister.  I think that on the internets, they shall be Little and Bit.  Without much further ado, I desperately need to get their birth story recorded.  Two parts, I think, perhaps a third for the hospital stay, with part one being a bit more background-y and part two being more of a procedural.

So, while I was quite happy to find an OB who said only baby A needed to be vertex for a vaginal birth to be possible, it turns out this was sort of a lie.  Or at least not quite as truthful as it first appeared.  As my pregnancy progressed, it became clear that not everyone at the practice would be okay with a vertex/breech vaginal delivery scenario.  There was one other big piece of news that had somehow not been shared with me after my big ultrasound at the Geisinger hospital in Danville, PA:  delivery at 37-38 weeks was recommended.  I had read a bit about this general recommendation, but I thought my practice was being refreshingly relaxed as to putting a deadline on delivery.  Wrong.  They just failed to share that part of the tertiary care center's report.  While I ultimately came to wholeheartedly agree with this recommendation, it was not presented in a very good way - or in a very timely fashion - and I did not react well.  (Long story short:  previously uncomplicated monochorionic twin pregnancies have a 1.25% chance of stillbirth after 37-38 weeks.  This is unacceptably high in comparison to the risks of delivery at 38 weeks.)  By "I did not react well," I mean that the huge, hormonal 36-weeks pregnant lady stormed out of the hospital crying after one of the twice-weekly non-stress tests.

What I wanted:  a totally natural vaginal birth.  Why I couldn't have it:  baby B was just switching between being breech and being transverse.  I knew perfectly well that I wasn't going to spontaneously go into labor by 38 weeks, having had my first child at 40w2d and not having shown any signs of premature labor thus far (cervix o'steel, apparently).  I came to the conclusion that an induced labor with a breech twin was not safe, especially given the lack of experience with breech births most practitioners have.  I can sum up weeks of research by saying that IF you are going to have a spontaneous delivery with an OB who is experienced with breech deliveries, THEN it is reasonably safe to do, but if you can't meet all of those conditions (and more, like your twins being the same size and not being your first live births) then it's time for the dreaded c-section.

I felt, and still feel, pretty comfortable knowing I had done what I could and that not all c-sections are unnecessary. I worked on controlling what I could:  scheduling it for as late as possible (37w6d because my favorite OB at the practice was going on vacation the day after), contacting the hospitals IBCLCs to make sure they would be part of the birth team, insisting on having the catheter inserted after I got the spinal (it may seem inconsequential, but why have it inserted when you still have feeling?), and generally making sure everyone knew I wanted to touch and feed my babies as soon as possible.  We planned to have my husband accompany the girls out of the OR so that they would be brought to me in the recovery room as quickly as possible, and not given eye ointment, a hepatitis shot, or a bath.

Going from a homebirth to a c-section was an exhausting journey.  I was seriously very ready for pregnancy to be over.  Finally, we gamely set out for the hospital around 9:30AM on May 3, leaving the Bee with my mom at our house... and knowing we were just hours away from meeting two new little humans.


Saturday, April 7, 2012

BOGO Babies, or Getting Knocked Off My Low-Risk High Horse

Everyone loves a good pregnancy story, right?  I figure I should record it for posterity before it is overwritten in my memory banks by the actual birth.

I found and had three meetings with a wonderful CPM.  We decided to have just one ultrasound - my feeling being that if you are going to have a home birth, there's no harm in ruling out easily-spotted problems.  I was not going to find out the sex.  (I know ultrasounds aren't perfect, but I still feel that the risks of intervention are outweighed by the benefits of information in this case).  So on January 4, 2012, The Husband and I happily drove half an hour to the practice of the OB the midwife works with to have an anatomy ultrasound performed.

Back to the ultrasound room we went, lighthearted enough, even though I always get a little jittery before things like this.  I hopped up on the table, and the guy told me I needed to empty my bladder, and that it was the fullest one he had seen that day.  So I went and did so and hopped back up (I can't believe I was that nimble just four months ago).  Within about 30 seconds, he said, "How many babies were you planning on having?"

"Just the one," I said.

"Well, there are two in there."

I laughed, in a probably mildly unhinged manner, for a couple minutes, then had to be still so he could look at a few more things.  He couldn't do the full anatomy scan on both twins due to scheduling, but he checked their hearts, brains, and also identified the type of twinning.

Thence began a happy, but difficult, January.  I immediately, if sadly, ruled out home birth - just too risky, especially with monochorionic twins, even diamniotic ones.  (No, I didn't know the terms before, but here's the important thing:  they share one placenta but have their own amniotic sacs).  I picked an OB/midwife practice; it was terrible, and I cried at the first appointment.  I then switched practices and it has been great.

The first OB said some pretty terrible things.  Like:  no option of a vaginal delivery unless both twins were vertex; he would induce me when I got to 38 weeks; oh, and in the ever-so-likely even of a c-section, would I like them to tie my tubes "while they were in there?"  Hence the weeping.  My OB now?  Vaginal delivery as long as the presenting twin is vertex (and they are about the same size, not distressed, not preterm, and other reasonable stipulations); no one will say "induction" unless I go to 41 weeks (pretty unlikely); and, in general, a c-section is not the preferred method of delivery.

I had a very hard time admitting I am a high risk pregnancy.  Unfortunately, there's simply no getting around it; monochorionic twins ARE high risk.  They die in utero more often than singletons, whether it's early or late in the pregnancy, even more often than dichorionic twins (twins that do not share a placenta).  They can have Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS), where their mingled circulation can cause one twin to have too much blood, urine, and amniotic fluid while the other has too little of those things.  Placental abruption is more of a danger during delivery.  Heart defects are more likely.  Preterm delivery, and especially very preterm (before 34 weeks) is more frequent.  Going past 40 weeks appears to be more risky with twins than it is with singletons as well.

Having said all that:  I'm happy to say I am being treated as normally as possible, while being monitored very closely.  My midwives (CNMs) have been amazing and are respectful of my general hippie-ness.  I even detect a touch of excitement from them!  Their plan of action has so far included: an in-depth ultrasound that checked for uneven blood flow, heart problems, and a bazillion other things (it took over an hour, and I nearly passed out from being on my back, but at least now I have an iron-clad reason not to be on my back during labor!); twice-weekly non-stress tests staring at 32 weeks; once-weekly biophysical profiles starting at 34 weeks; and growth ultrasounds at each midwife appointment going forward to verify that growth is equal and not slowing too much.  (Unequal growth is a very obvious sign of the previously mentioned TTTS).  Is this a lot of stuff going on from now until birth?  Absolutely, but it's "stuff" that actually improves outcomes, and that's all I ask.  Poke me, prod me, strap three monitors to me twice a week, but improve my chances of having healthy babies!

So, here I am, 34 weeks pregnant with monochorionic/diamniotic girls who are creeping up on 5 pounds each.  Yes, I am uncomfortable, huge about the belly, tired, and I sleep alone because I get up all the time due to a full bladder, heartburn, hunger, or some combination thereof, but I'm awfully close to bringing some kick-ass healthy twins into this world, as close to "the old fashioned way" as possible.  I am controlling what I can, which is mostly what I eat and how much I rest.  I still think those things, especially the eating, are incredibly important.

I realize that I've left out all my feelings about the actual having of two babies thing.  In short, the idea of going from one kid to three so quickly was an incredible shock, but we have mostly processed it.  I don't think we will fully comprehend it until they are here.  But just know... it could happen to you!

Sunday, October 23, 2011


It's a good thing I take better care of my family than I do this blog.  Truth is, it's been a weird couple of months, with a wonderfully happy ending(s).  I hope to start writing semi-regularly again now that we are settled.

The Husband finished his first year of graduate school with flying colors and so much stress.  However, things began to break down over the summer and it was ultimately decided that he would quit.  That certainly took awhile for me to process, but I did my best to be supportive.  I was, in some ways, quite disappointed, almost to the point of grieving - that PhD was the !thing! that was going to solve all of our problems.  (Wait - looking at it from this side, I can see that we don't really have that many problems).  So a job hunt began, and as the end of August, and the stipend, approached, I finally had a solution.  I wanted to go home.  Home being central Pennsylvania, mountains and all.

For a few days, I put it forth as our worst-case scenario.  The cost of living in central PA is such that one of our incomes (TH actually started working remotely for the same place I do again; he worked there first and they are always glad to have his help) would be sufficient for rent, a car, everything (if necessary).  Then TH had an interview for a job in Nevada, and I realized that Nevada sounded god-awful and that I was severely freaked out by the idea of going that far away from the East coast and all my family.

So, the decision was jointly made.  The more we talked about it the more we liked it.  We found a house and started packing (we had actually started earlier, because we knew one way or another we weren't staying in the cave).  We arranged our move-in for September 25.  On September 20, my grandmother died.  She had been living with my parents.  They tried to take their first non-camping vacation in years, and my mom's first real break from caretaking in at least 9 months.  They had a nurse/friend stay with her, and while sitting in a comfy chair, she had a heart attack and died almost immediately thereafter.  She was 93.  The nightmarish practical side of it was that the Bee and I had to rent a car on the 22nd to drive up here for the funeral, leaving poor sainted husband to finish packing himself.  My parents and I drove down to fetch him (and of course the moving truck!) on the 25th, then back to Williamsport the same day.

We've been in Williamsport for nearly a month.  My immediate family (parents, brother and his family) and a good chunk of my extended family (aunts, uncles, my bazillion cousins) are within 30 minutes of my house.  And it is wonderful.  The city has its charms, it's so close to beautiful outdoorsy adventures, and having family makes having a two-year old so much better.  I was so resistant to the idea of ever moving back to this state, and I feel like doing so and being able to successfully interact with my family on a regular basis was a real growing-up experience for me.  The house, while modest, has 3 bedrooms and an enclosed porch for laundry and playing, which is a real improvement over a 600 square foot English basement (and at half the expense!)  But best of all?  TH found what is quite nearly his dream job working for the county.  He starts next Monday.

Wait.  Maybe that's not best of all... I found out on September 12th that I am pregnant.  Not unexpected, and very welcome.  I've already found and met with an experienced CPM in the area.  She is wonderful and we're having this one at home!  I am nearly 10 weeks and doing well, already a little pouchy, I kid you not.  So, yay!  I am so looking forward to having actual support during the postpartum phase.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

I am the Pope of the Church of Don't Get a Dog

And, yea verily, I will spread my church's gospel far and wide with the hope that I may save some souls.

I am not denying the fact that there are, at this moment, people who are very, very happy having a dog.  But if you are not one of those people, I advise you not to try and become one.  There is at least an even chance of you becoming someone who is either stuck with a difficult dog, or made very sad by the ordeal of placing a beloved pet into a new home (after dealing with increased stress leading up to that resolution).  I also do not wish to discount or dismiss anyone who currently has or recently had a dog that they love very much.  And I am definitely not trying to make you get rid of an existing pet.  All I want to do is stop you from getting into the relationship in the first place.  I do not think having a dog is a necessary stop on the road to fulfilling your full human potential.  I think they are a luxury.

My Dog Story
Full disclaimer:  I had a dog, from September 2007 through July 2010.  Her name was Abbey, and she was - is, I hope - a sweet, cute dog.  We did the "right" thing and got her from a rescue agency/foster home instead of a breeder.  We crate trained her very gently, didn't leave her alone for long stretches of time (we've had severely screwy, but flexible, schedules since 2007), took her for regular exercise, etc.  And yet, Abbey displayed ever-worsening separation anxiety.  In our first apartment, it wasn't too bad; the units were fairly soundproof, we weren't next to anyone, and she wasn't psychotic.  She would stay in her crate without too much destruction.  She did bark a lot while alone.  Next apartment, she began scratching at the door to the point that she made her paws bleed a few times.  Lots of barking.  Around this time we began leaving her alone less, without really saying that's what we were doing.  The experience of being spayed seemed to push her into greater fear and destruction; she chewed up the floor of her crate, so we stopped using it.  Her destruction between December 2008 and June 2010 was this: chewed through metal bars of crate in a hotel room; chewed/scratched her way through a screen door at the in-laws'; jumped through a window screen at a friend's house; chewed door frame at vacation rental; crashed through window at my parents' house, breaking jaw and requiring surgery and stitches; tore up carpet in workroom at new apartment (down to the tacking strip; it's a wonder she didn't seriously injure herself).  It was this last apartment that proved to be insurmountable.  There was just no safe way to contain her - it was entirely possible that she would break the glass at either the front or back door, or injure herself if shut into any other room.  We couldn't leave her alone without incurring significant damage to either the dog or the apartment.  We tried Xanax, exhausting exercise, behavioral training... nothing worked.  We were becoming stifled in our new city because we could NEVER do anything out of the apartment as a family, not even something as simple as walking to the grocery store.  And even if we could beat the problem of leaving her alone here, there was still the problem of being able to leave here someplace else (i.e. when visiting parents or friends).  So, with many tears (from me), I contacted the foster "mom," and returned our sweet pup to a home that could better absorb, and possibly remedy, her problems.  It turns out we were not the only adopters to return dogs from this litter, nor were we the only ones to experience problems.  That does not fully excuse our actions, but it does give them some context.  As it turns out, the woman who was working for the rescue agency was actually allowing some of her dogs to mate because puppy adoptions were the main source of income for the agency.  That is so far beyond unethical that I can still barely process it.

End Rambling Personal Anecdote

Not hard to tell that has been festering in my brain for some time.  Oh, you say, that's just your personal experience!  I could get a great dog!  Yes, you could.  My in-laws have a dog who is utterly problem free - he can be left anywhere, doesn't bark, all without any real effort on their part.  But you could also end up like the half-dozen people I know who didn't get a great dog.  It is not worth the risk, or the years of work, and even with an absolutely *perfect* dog, your life is still going to be complicated by several degrees.  Want to take a trip?  Either find a dog-friendly hotel, a kennel, or a dog-sitter.  Want to move abroad?  Have fun with those veterinary regulations and quite possibly a quarantine period for your dog, depending on where you go. Even if you want to do something as relatively routine as start a new job or go to school, your circumstances may change in such a way that you cannot keep your dog.  (Apartment-hunting is so much more difficult with a dog.) There's the constant possibility that a child (yours or otherwise) could provoke the dog into biting.  There are walkies, rain or shine or snow or dead of night in a sketchy neighborhood.  Dogs also get into everything, so expect at least mild gastrointestinal woes at some point.  Wait, I'm not sugar-coating this: expect a dog to crap liquid onto your floor and then possibly try to eat it.  Expect your dog to try to eat other dogs' poop, goose poop, horse poop, food garbage from the street, your garbage from the can, and anything else you can think of.  Then there are possible health woes like dysplasia, cancer, oral issues, disorders of every bodily system, many made more prevalent by inbreeding.  (Go human intervention!)  And no matter what, your dog - your sweet, sweet dog, who, believe me, you will love very much - is going to die within two decades.

And in the End...

That is my two cents - or possibly more like five dollars, I never have been into the whole brevity thing - on dog ownership.  I'm putting it out into the Internets in hope that it will do some good.  Before getting a dog, you need to pause, ask yourself very frankly if you would be willing to rearrange your life for this creature, and think about what that could mean.  A dog is not going to be a partner in any sort of life-rearranging; it's not going to cooperate (or resist, I guess, it's going to just be a dog about it); you will be doing all of the giving.

In the end, my anti-dog views come down to simplifying.  They aren't things, but they aren't people, and I've found that the fewer non-people items I have in my house and my life, the better things are.  I also believe in the power of demand, and putting your dollars where your mouth is, and I would love to see the market for dogs dwindle.

I won't dismiss the possibility that I am under cat mind control.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Poor Blog

I just need to write.  Those long, rambling posts are forming a blockage.  So here's what's been shaking.


We've been bitten by the house bug.  Low- to moderate-income DC residents can get a no- or low-interest, 5-year deferred loan of around $40,000 (in our case) for down payment assistance (plus $4,000 for closing costs).  The rent, like the man says, is too damn high, so we might as well be spending that $24,000 a year on something that's an actual house and not just a half-cave.  We very much want to stay in the District; we're looking at the Capitol Hill neighborhood and thinking of next summer as when we will get really serious about it.  Does the thought of a $500,000 house scare me?  Yes.  But the thought of having something that is mine-all-mine is alluring.

I'm still getting used to the fact that I live in a very expensive city, where your $500,000 house will be in an "okay" neighborhood and have, maximum, 3 bedrooms and maybe 1,800 square feet, and $36,000/year is "very low income" for a single person.

This doesn't mean I don't still think homeownership is overrated.  You're just renting from the bank.


I made awesome cilatro pesto last night.  About 5 cups (unpacked, by weight 3 oz.) cilantro, two green chiles, 1/2 cup olive oil (it makes a lot, trust me, and the oil will keep it good in the fridge for around 2 weeks), and salt to taste.  It would be good on pretty much anything - we had it on flautas and I'm looking forward to having it on eggs.


The Bee had a fever the past two days.  I think it's molar-related; she had a fever when the bulk of the one on the bottom right came in.  It's a lot of tooth to have jammed through your gums.  She was a little clingy/cranky, but improved greatly today. 


The tornadoes missed us last night.  We're still under a tornado watch, until 3PM today.  Thunderstorms and lightning, very very awesome!  In the old-fashioned sense of the word.  At least we have a nice windowless, half-subterranean room to hide in if necessary.


We're going to the Nationals v. Giants game on Saturday.  Our first ballgame outing went so well - and that was a night game - that I am not even anxious.  This one is at 4:00, so it should be even better.


I ordered and received a bunch of clothes from REI and could not be more pleased.  I decided to bite the bullet and invest more in nicer, more ethically produced clothing that will last for years instead of months.  Hopefully.  That, and the CSA we joined, are perfect examples of how you can actually spend less once you actually have more money.  It's cheaper to be well-off than it is to be poor.  Not fair.  It's called the Boots Theory of Socioeconomics and apparently comes from a character in a sci-fi series.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Couch to 5K: A Review, Plus Random Intruding Thoughts on Fatness!

Well, at week 7, day 3* of the 9-week training program, I ran 5 kilometers.  Not "a" 5K - not an actual race -  but 5K nonetheless, and at the respectable speed of a just-under 10 minute mile.  So I suppose that I have technically completed the goal and now I'm just working from running for 25 minutes to running from 30 minutes over the next 2 weeks.

Wheeeeeee!!!  I'm really quite proud.  Running was such an ordeal from elementary school onward that it means a lot to me to be able to run 5K (around 3 miles) without it being some sort of gasping hour-long affair.  Lesson for parents:  if your kid is having problems with the yearly physical tests, maybe have them do that stuff all year long?  I easily could have started running way back in 6th grade and have saved myself years of shame, had someone merely suggested it to me.  Things like simple solutions to embarrassing problems rarely pop into juvenile brains without some well-placed adult assistance.

So how did I like the program?  For reference, it's here.  I liked it A LOT.  It's really more of a walking/jogging program than a running program, and it's very gradual.  That said, I didn't exactly start out completely on the couch - I have been walking at least 12 miles a week for some time, pretty much always with a (now 22-pound) baby strapped to my back, and often with two rather heavy bags of food.  Still, running for 60 seconds that first week was quite taxing.  I found it easier once I got to week 4 and instead of cycling walk X seconds/jog X seconds, it was just BAM BAM, do this repertoire and you're done.  (All workouts last 25-30 minutes). 

The equipment required to run is fairly minimal.  A good (ideally, a great) sports bra, comfy pants/shorts that won't ride up, and decent shoes.  I started running with ancient (though not completely dead) Adidas Supernovas.  I realized they were impeding my attempts to strike more with my mid- to fore-foot (which is a lot better for my knees, it seems), so I switched to Brooks Green Silence shoes around week 5.  Looove them.  Though they are on the minimalist side, the ever-improving nature of running shoe technology means that their support is better than what I was getting from my monstrously huge and heavy Supernovas that were manufactured in 2000, and the Green Silences are incredibly light.  (Technically, you should go to a running store and get fitted for shoes, but I was far too timid about being a novice runner to do so.)

You can't swing a cat (not that I would) in Georgetown without hitting two or three runners now that it's springtime.  It is such a yuppie endeavor.  I do understand that, from the $100 equipment investment to the required leisure time, along with living in a safe neighborhood and being physically able, I am privileged to get to do this thing that I now love to do.

I am a recent Fat Acceptance/HAES convert. So please believe me when I say I did not start running to lose weight.  Possibly just to ensure that I ignore the scale, the Bee broke it a few weeks back, and I don't think I'm going to replace it.  My clothes are a much better gauge of any changes in my body, especially with the growing muscle mass.  I have lost about 1.5 - 2.0 inches from my waist, hips, and chest, and my abdominal muscles - while still hiding underneath chub - are better defined than they have ever been (you just have to poke around a little to find them).  (The fact that my boobs do not fluctuate with the rest of my body is pretty mysterious, but I assure you it's true; I guess I just don't store excess fat there, so there's nothing to lose in spite of the fact that they are, erm, largish?)  Walking everywhere had already made my calves pretty impressive, but running has done the same thing in a shorter span of time for every muscle from my stomach to my heels.  I have also lost fat from my arms and face.  It's weird.

Am I thin?  Do I want to be?  I guess the answers are maybe and not necessarily.  It doesn't really change anything - the Bee doesn't say, oh, Mommy, your waist-to-hip ratio is better so now I'm going to sleep all night; no one at the bank gives me free money; I am still a shy homebody.  I do feel healthier than I have in years and have finally found an activity/hobby (for running geekery is rampant) that I enjoy and can see myself doing for a long, long time. I have also found that I am more genuinely and enthusiastically hungry, which, considering how much I already enjoyed cooking and eating, is really quite amazing.  I am not oblivious to the fact that I only hopped on the body-acceptance train after losing about 20% of my body weight (by doing nothing more than following the well-known weight loss plan "Get Pregnant and Have a Baby.")  I think I am a happier and kinder person for having jumped on Fat Acceptance, and it's certainly a better attitude to share with a child.  And who knows, I could be fat again, these things do fluctuate, and it will be nice to not have to deal with so much self-loathing.

Final verdict:  if you've always wanted to be a runner, but were terrified/embarrassed, give the C25K program a try.  One of my favorite things is seeing people with a wide variety of ages, shapes, and abilities who are just out running because they enjoy it.  Sounds cheesy, but it's totally true.
*I took a week off due to The Worst Cold Ever, and then re-ran all three days of week 6.