Sunday, August 21, 2016

Twin Skin and Tiger Stripes

Photo credit: Sarah Siler Photography
Before my struggle with infertility, I had a lot of anxiety about becoming pregnant, including some concerns about what it would do to my body. I wrote about some of those worries in my Blueberry Girl post. Knowing how hard I am on myself, I was worried that changes I could not control may wreak havoc on my body, which would cause a lot of personal dissatisfaction. Silly or not, these were some real concerns and although I was called out by some commenters for being selfish or vain to worry about such things, I still was quite worried.

Looking back I was bigger than I remember!
I mentioned before that my first body awareness after having the babies was noticing my immediately deflated belly as I lay on the operating room table. I felt a little unnerved seeing my once taut belly all soft and saggy. I started to wonder about the damage of what some call "twin skin."

Again, bigger than I realized!
I was stuck in bed and unable to move well enough to do much for days after the delivery. The first time I took a bath and saw myself in the mirror I was shocked. I couldn't believe how huge my hips looked. I figured it was because the size my lower body had grown was now grossly out of proportion without the large belly to match (I did gain at least 7" on my hips when I measured part way through my pregnancy). I managed to make it through my pregnancy with no stretch marks on my belly and a few small ones on my hips. Now, I have tiger stripes all along my outer hips and love handles that I attribute to the swelling from the IV fluids given to me in the hospital, partly to combat anemia after losing significant blood during the procedure, and realize now the large "hippy" appearance was also due partly to swelling.

Induction day edema

What happened to my knees?

Home post partum a few days later!
I don't know what I weighed in the hospital (close to 200 lbs) but I lost about 20 lb. by the time I got home 5 days later. One month later I had lost 47 lb! I attribute the bulk of this to water weight as I lost most once my knees and ankles were back to normal. I currently bounce about a pound below and a few pounds above my pre-baby weight, and about 5-10 pounds above my pre-IVF weight.

Induction day
13 days after delivery

13 days after delivery -- not hard to feel skinny after as big as I was!
Halloween, about 3 weeks after delivery

I have gone up a size or so in most of my clothes. I resized my wedding ring when it wouldn't come close to fitting over my knuckle. My feet seem to have mostly gone back to normal.

I didn't expect "The Mom" look to come so fast.
Maybe with two babies at once you accelerate along the path to Mom Bod that much faster.

I feel like I went over 30 years without looking like a mom. I had hoped to avoid looking like a mom. I wanted to always look young and hip, with flat, hard abs. (Not that that was true before kids!) Instead, I feel I look tired. I look older. I don't seem to know or understand many of the current fashion trends (leggings as pants, still an utter mystery to me!) and find myself continuing to wear my maternity clothes (baggy is in, right?). And my abs? Well, while they have never been flat, I somehow managed to avoid diastasis recti (separation of the abdominal muscles) but I still have a little extra sag. And as I mentioned before, the stretch marks.

But I couldn't be happier.



Okay that's an exaggeration. I could be more pleased if I looked like Heidi Klum after all her babies. It would be nice to fit into all of my clothes again. To have beautifully taut belly skin and supple unstretched hips. But...I still don't think I would be happier. So maybe I was right...

I couldn't be happier.

Because really, the way I look at my body has completely transformed. No longer do I look at my body as an ornament to dress and adorn. No longer is it an object to perfect or to use to seek admiration. It isn't something to be sexualized or even demonized.



It is a tool. It is an instrument. And an amazing one that has done amazing things. It has survived years of infertility. It has overcome hundred of shots and ravages on its system with synthetic hormones and mad scientist happenings. It has carried and delivered two healthy babies. It has provided much of their needed nutrition. All of this automatically, miraculously, without any input or feedback from me consciously.


***This is another post from my archives of works in progress. I wish I had finished it completely as I wonder exactly where I was going with it at the time, as it ends a bit abruptly. I contemplated adding another ending today but just didn't have the words. And it felt a bit fraudulent not to just ride the moment of the feelings I had then. 

I wish I could say that I have held on to this new found confidence completely since those early months post partum, but I think it is quite normal to have days where I begrudge my stretch marks! I haven't lost any more weight (although I am back in my old clothes), I continue to battle hormonal imbalances while nursing that cause skin issues, and I have more than my fair share of bad hair days but I find almost a year later I still place less scrutiny on the appearance of my body than before where every flaw and imperfection was something to improve, fuss over, or loathe. My main goal these days is to try to get healthy and back in shape. After exercise restrictions during my fertility treatments, a difficult pregnancy, and an overwhelmingly busy schedule with infant twins, exercise hasn't been much of a reality for over two years. As an athlete growing up, it is crazy to think I could ever go that long but I suppose life happens. 


Every day is a new day! I feel so lucky to have this wonderful body to live it with. ***






On the Go!





I started this post weeks ago. Here are some updates on what we've been up to instead of blogging.


The past few months have been a whirlwind of change...for the babies and for our family as a whole.

Meeting cousins for the first time: my twin sister and her family. 



Meeting another cousin, Uncle Colt,
and Uncle Colt's beard (kinda scary for the babies!)
Since May we took our first family vacation over Memorial Day. It was a quick tour of the Southwest starting with a few days to visit family in Utah, followed by job interviews in Tucson, AZ and Las Cruces, NM and passing through El Paso, TX. The babies were great traveling companions and learned they like the pool, especially Sister, at least at first. We really enjoyed our time in the SW and were pleasantly surprised. Maybe we will find our way back there? It did confirm my suspicion that I would like to live in a pueblo style house. And have a cactus or two in the yard.


White Sands National Park in NM

Of course, pueblo with hanging chilis.
Sister liked the spicy food!

First time in the pool A little tricky with two!

Always good sports! 
We also made a weekend trip to Minneapolis to meet my sister and her family who were there for a conference. The highlight of the trip was going to a Minnesota Twins baseball game. "Twins holding twins at a Twins game!" What could be better?

Can you tell who is who?
 



We will continue our job hunt here in the Midwest as well and make a few more interview trips. The babies have been great travel companions and make friends wherever we go. We have even been lucky to have family accompany us on some of these trips to help with babysitting and all of the logistics of our schedules.

Abe and I have also both had some job transitions. Abe finished his fourth year of residency by completing his most recent Head and Neck surgery block, and is beginning his fifth and final year of residency. I have never known Abe to not be in his training so this is such an unusual concept -- to see the light at the end of the tunnel so fast approaching after so many years in the dark. So far it has been an improvement already with shorter days at work much of the time.

While I had planned to stay at my current position in Burlington at least another year, I unexpectedly had a late change of plans and now cut my commute in half to work in Muscatine. While I am heartbroken to leave my staff and patients in Burlington, this will be an improvement in many ways! The biggest and best part is that I will be working part time with a shorter commute and thus home with Mister and Sister more than half of the week. I am really excited to join the team in Muscatine and look forward to meeting many more wonderful people along the way.


I have been busy finalizing things with my previous job and getting paperwork settled for the new position. In the meantime, I am home for a few weeks until my new position begins. My nanny is continuing to work her normal schedule with us so right now I am living a la "Real Housewives of Iowa" style-- at home while my full time nanny helps out. Needless to say, I am catching up on LIFE a little bit -- getting my house in order, starting up an exercise routine, playing with babies much more, and you know, getting my hair did or going grocery shopping alone whenever I want!



And then there are the babies. They are getting so big! We passed our "In and Out Day" last month -- a big deal in the "mom of multiples" community, when your babies have been out as long as they were in. We really wanted to celebrate at the restaurant In 'N' Out but there was none to be found in Iowa!

They are now nine months old and getting so big. No really, they are getting really big! It seems like they are bigger than all of the one year olds we meet. We are getting to the point that carrying them both in their carseats is a struggle. And we are starting the baby proofing progress as Sister learned to crawl and stand and get into everything and find power cords to chew on and get maimed or killed all within the last few days. AACK. Mister is not far behind, just starting to crawl and stand.

This guy sure loves his bottles!


First corn for this Iowa native!
We finally got some sleep training on board and they now go to bed consistently and sleep through the night most nights. What a relief after a major sleep regression.

So, it has been an incredibly busy and stressful time. But also a wonderful time. We are trying to enjoy all that life has to offer while making big changes and big decisions.


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Smurfs

Well, life with two babies doesn't seem to slow down much. I've sat down multiple times to try to write and haven't been able to finish a post. So, here is a nice easy one to break up the silence.

Just because...

...these two Smurfs are too cute to keep to myself.

(Now if only I were a photographer and a photoshopper!)





















I thought this photo sequence was funny. Typical twin life.
And along with that, yes, we subscribe to the diapers on heads
 as entertainment philosophy!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

My Complex Mother's Day, or is it My Mother's Day Complex?



Today is my first REAL Mother's Day.

Last year felt like the first time I was given permission to "enjoy" Mother's Day, as I was pregnant and on my way to motherhood.

Before that, ever since I turned 18 I have found Mother's Day to be awkward at best and sometimes even sad and disappointing. Of course I am speaking selfishly on my own relationship with this day as a woman, not on the wonderful notion of it as a time to honor my own mother and the other women who have blessed my life. For that reason it should be a great day for all. But beyond that it has been on my short list of least favorite days for years.

Usually Mother's Day consists of going to church to hear sermons on other people's angel mothers. Then, each lesson focuses on the wonderful nature of mothers, followed by some kind of small trinket delivered to the women by the men or children of the congregation-- it used to be a small flower to plant and seems to have transitioned to a small chocolate. For the sake of sensitivity or perhaps just logistics, any woman over 18 is usually awarded with said trinket and often thank you's and kind words.

Hence the awkwardness:

when I was too young for children it felt like lauding me with praise and a gift on Mother's Day was taking away from the real work Mother's do and for which they deserve to be praised. And when I was ready for children who would not come, I felt like an imposter. It was a painful reminder that I hadn't done any of those things yet to be thanked for. And not for lack of desire or trying.


So today I was ready to soak it all in --the cheesy talks praising each speaker's mother; the lessons that skip over the assigned topic for the day in lieu of a Mother's Day tribute; and, of course some kind of treat at the end. After years of awkwardness, sadness, and disappointment, I was ready, armed with only a tad bit of guilt (knowing how many women would still be feeling those feelings--I still have survivor's guilt at times).

And none of that happened.
I was a little disappointed.

But my infertile self was relieved. (Do those feelings ever go away?)

And really, maybe it was pretty appropriate for my first Mother's Day. Because being a mother isn't about "soaking it all in," or about being praised, or receiving much in return in way of chocolate or even flowers. 

For me, being a mother is about waking up in the middle of the night to soothe crying babies.
(Or even just to pump at 3 am to try to make enough milk to pretend that you are still feeding your two babies enough breast milk to make it worth the hours per day you are attached to that machine.) And getting up again before dawn to feed them before leaving early for work.

It is about never doing your hair and baby bodily fluids as your most common accessory. And somehow not minding.



It is about doing whatever it takes for baby smiles and laughs (and trying your hardest to catch it on video for grandma).

It is long long walks in the stroller pushing 40 pounds of baby up rolling Iowa hills to pick up Daddy after a long day of work because you can't seem to keep two babies happy a minute longer inside the house. And then walking back home alone when you find out he is stuck unexpectedly in the OR until midnight and you are on baby duty alone after a hard day of work.


It is sharing your body with another person (or two) and being okay (most days) with the changes left behind.

Or about lugging a double stroller everywhere you go and doing the shopping cart-stroller train to buy groceries while pretending you aren't a spectacle. And sincerely smiling when people tell you, "You have your hands full!" Because you are so glad you do!

It is changing your goals after 15 years of hard work and taking professional setbacks and knowing/hoping it will all be worth it somehow.


It is coming home after a long hard day to smiles and slobbery kisses and squishy chubby thighs.

* * *

It is about miracles. . . Some already here and some waiting to happen.

For many, I know it is still about heartache and longing, waiting and disappointment. Or about the wishes for the mother you never had or wished you had had or missing the one who has already left you. Or for the one who is lost that made you a mother.

* * *

Whatever this complex day brings for you, I hope you can find some peace and sunshine. And hopefully some chocolate.

XOXOXO,

Erin

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

From Belly To Birth and Abdominal Stirrings

This morning I woke up with some rumblings in my tummy and a little bloating. My first thought was, "Oh my gosh, I'm pregnant!" Funny how my recent pregnancy made that my context for abdominal happenings. With my history of infertility combined with the fact that I am not only nursing but using an IUD, that would indeed be a miracle!

Luckily I shouldn't be reliving the joys of pregnancy any time soon (wouldn't that be crazy while raising infant twins!?) from a literal standpoint, but you can reminisce with me if you would like as my birth story was featured today on the blog From Belly to Birth. Megan shares some really interesting posts highlighting pregnancy and the birthing process, focusing specifically on the varied and unique experiences we have as women bringing these babies into the world. Many of the stories are touching reads and also provide good information for women with questions about their own upcoming births or those hoping to understand more about childbirth (guys?).

Feel free to check out my post (and others). While it is very similar to my original post it has a few added details and back story. I was surprised how much I enjoyed reading it back and the emotions it stirred up. I am glad that I documented it as the details get fuzzy after even a short period of time.

Enjoy!






Saturday, March 5, 2016

First in the Nation


 

One of the advantages (and sometimes disadvantages) of living in Iowa is that we get to be very involved in the political system due to our "first in the nation" caucus. This gives us many opportunities to view political ads (make them stop!), meet the candidates, and spend a lot of time thinking about Republicans and Democrats.

Campaign buses: a common site leading up to the election
Abe has been interested in politics ever since I have known him. (Funny enough, although not on purpose, both babies share names with political commentators.) Growing up in Utah, where most of the candidates don't even bother campaigning, I had very little political exposure. I remember being surprised to see my first political add on TV -- "They have commercials for the presidential candidates?"


Abe has taught me to enjoy the involvement we get to have as Iowans and we try to attend events for the candidates where we can. Some of the people we have met or seen in the past include multiple times for Obama (even before he started his presidential campaign) and Romney, Guilliani, and Ron Paul. We have been to rallies, dinners, meet and greets, and the Iowa Straw Poll.

This year we have been quite busy (surprise!) and we were unable to make as many events this cycle as we have in the past. We attempted to attend a Trump rally with Sister but after standing in a winding line (out the door, down the street, and through a parking garage) for about 90 minutes we made it to the doors only to be turned away due to a full venue.
"I don't want to see Trump, I just want to go home!"
The babies and Abe were able to meet Dr. Ben Carson later in the week in the warmth of the indoors.


While waiting during a photo-op, Abe told Dr. Carson he should check the babies' fontanelles. He said, "I was just thinking that" and said they were both "good." Not many healthy babies get an exam from a famous pediatric Neurosurgeon!






We were also able to meet Chris Christie...(I even asked him a question about his policies for mothers and families)



...and Rand Paul. 




And we snuck in a picture with Ron Paul.



The babies were a huge hit at most of the events with multiple reporters wanting to talk to us about them from the local student newspaper to national papers such as the New Jersey Star Ledger and the Iowa Press Citizen and even a reporter from Sweden and another from Ireland. Mister seemed perfectly content with the hubbub and energy of the crowd at the large Rand Paul event but poor Sister found the loud applause and cheering a bit frightening. Poor baby! I guess she isn't a Libertarian, after all.



I wish we would have been able to introduce the babies to all of the candidates (if only we had more foresight and a little more time!). But were glad they were able to get some pictures with a few candidates and they were even the headline feature in a few Iowa newspapers and mentioned in the Irish Times! As an identical twin myself I am quite aware that twins are popular but I wasn't expected to be so interesting to reporters covering international news.

Des Moines Register/Press Citizen: These 4 month old twins are the cutest thing you will see at the caucuses today

Irish Times: Republicans pull out all of the stops in Iowa


One reality of having twins is that everyone wants to tell you about "their" twins, whether that is the set of twins they went to school with, their own children, or their distant cousins. Even Mrs. Paul (Ron Paul's wife and Rand Paul's mother) wanted to talk to us about her twins, her daughter's twin girls who are now in high school.


And although not a political figure, the babies were able to meet local celebrity Kirk Ferentz, the coach of the Iowa Hawkeye Football team while at the Chris Christie event. 




Maybe we will get some more chances for twin photo ops in another four years!