Let Me Tell You about my Fat Pants

Last week I received a big order of work clothes from Gap, including three pairs of dress pants I’d bought in a size larger than what I thought I needed. I really didn’t want to risk them being too tight and making me sad and uncomfortable, so I sized up. Well, they were still too tight. Unwearably tight. Infuriatingly tight. What the HELL.

I am currently still carrying all of the fat I put on during my pregnancy with the twins. I lost a little bit at one point, but for the most part I’ve been steadily maintaining and even occasionally gaining weight. I couldn’t cut calories while breastfeeding, but now that I’ve weaned, I can. So I’ve been trying seriously to lose this pregnancy weight for the past month or so, but I haven’t seen a lot of results. It’s time to kick things into gear around here if I want to get back in shape and feel more like myself. Carrying around an extra ~40 pounds is a very noticeable discomfort and I am done with it. DONE.

While exercise is a big part of feeling better mentally and physically, exercise alone has never helped me lose weight. For me, I have to be very careful and conscious of what I eat. Left to my own instincts, I eat much more food than I really need — bigger portions, more often, and more high-calorie treats. If I’m paying closer attention, which I can do best with the help of a food-tracking app (I use Lose It!), I can eat much more appropriately.

I’ve been working hard on that and I’ve seen where I was getting most of those excessive calories and I’ve taken steps to start new habits. Eating lunch on campus was a big hit — the healthy-looking sandwiches and salads at the campus eateries are a lot more calorie dense than I’d thought, for one thing! So I studied the menus looking for the best choices and also started packing my own lunches some days. I also stocked up on fruit and vegetable snacks for the house so I could grab that instead of a granola bar or a huge piece of cheese. CW and I are collaborating on making some lower-calorie meals for dinners, too. So hopefully this will help!

I decided I’d also go back to posting a weekly fitness update with my week’s workouts and maybe a brief comment about some food highlights. Hopefully I can do this every Monday.

My workout buddies
Gratuitous picture of my workout buddies in the jogging stroller

Here’s what last week looked like:

Fitness and Exercise Goals: Five workouts per week (yes!), run 10 miles per week (no!), do at least one strength or barre3 workout (yes!).

Monday: Walked on the indoor track (~20:00) and spin class (45:00).

Tuesday: Barre3 video (30:00).

Wednesday: Rest Day.

Thursday: Ran 2 miles with the jogging stroller (26:00).

Friday: Elliptical (45:00).

Saturday: Rest Day.

Sunday: Ran 4 miles on the treadmill (~43:00).

Food Highlights: Fresh peaches from the farmers’ market, the return of fried eggs over kale for breakfast, CW’s vegan bolognese over shredded zucchini.

A pretty good week! I haven’t weighed myself recently, but maybe I will get back into regular weigh-ins soon? I do think it’s helpful feedback to see, but I don’t like to get into weighing myself too often. We’ll see.

I know I have a few friends out there who are also working on a fitness/training/weight loss goal – I hope your week was good, too!

Lumbering Along: A Postpartum Fitness Report

Saturday I ran three miles for the first time since the twins were born. The first time since early in my first trimester, actually. (I was still running when I got pregnant and only quit because I had both a small subchorionic hematoma and a huge post-ovulation ovarian cyst, so the doctors advised me not to exercise.) It felt both more difficult than I imagined and more satisfying to be back running what used to be an easy base/maintenance run for me.

When I started getting active again after the twins, I focused on some transverse abdominal work to help rehab my core (thanks to the always helpful advice of my friend Kathleen of Oh Baby!, who is a fitness expert — check out their videos if you want some great prenatal & postpartum fitness tips). Then I started walking. After a while, I threw in a block or so of running here and there, and damn, y’all, it felt SO WEIRD. My core still felt really weak, like there were no muscles there at all. My hip flexors felt weak and sore and otherwise just not right, to the extent that it felt difficult to lift my legs up. I felt like I was just flopping around out there. I also was so intensely focused on engaging my pelvic floor and transverse abs that I had to concentrate really, really hard. It felt a million miles away from the effortless, easy running I (felt I) had earned after years of work. Bodies, man.

Since those first awkward, floppy blocks, I slowly built back my time and distance. I started the Couch-to-5K running program as a way of giving myself some easy interval work. This program is a proven success as far as I’m concerned — it’s how I got running again in my early 30s after a long hiatus from health and fitness. I figured it surely could help now. The first four weeks of the program were great, but once I got to the point of doing run intervals of 3-5 minutes, I figured I was ready to take the reins myself. I started running straight 5:1 intervals around my very, very hilly neighborhood loop, which turned out to be a little over 2 miles total. Once I felt comfortable with that, I went to 10:1 intervals and then started dropping the one-minute walks as I felt ready. That got me up to 2 miles of straight running. Then I started adding distance: 2.5 miles, then 3. And here we are!

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On days when I don’t run, I might do a long stroller walk with the babies. Pushing a double stroller for 3 miles in my hilly neighborhood is a much tougher workout than you’d imagine — and it’s a good way to coax them into the afternoon nap they usually like to resist.

I’ve also been doing some barre3 online workouts, which I just love. So far I’ve only been doing the 30-minute videos, but I hope to work up to 40 or even 60 soon enough. These are great for me to do at home when the babies are napping (whenever I am so lucky!) and sometimes I can even manage it if they’re happily sitting in the swing & bouncy seat. I love that barre3 also has tons of 10 minute videos to work into my day if I can only get a little bit of time. It’s easy to just roll out the yoga mat and go — I don’t even need to change clothes, as leggings and a nursing tank are perfect for this workout. Bonus: two of the women in the postpartum “bounce back” workout are moms of twins — one woman’s twins were only 3 months old at the time of filming. If she can do it, so can I.

Afternoon Calisthenics
What’s this? An off-topic photo of the twins I am including purely on the basis of showing you them doing their daily workout? Guilty.

So fitness is going well — difficult but rewarding. It always feels great to get out there and get moving. Weight loss, however, is not happening. In fact, I have gained back 10 of the pounds I initially had lost, so that feels shitty. I’m now 35lbs above my pre-pregnancy weight, exactly where I was at my 5-weeks-postpartum checkup. Apparently this is a normal thing, though. The body wants to save energy for making milk, hormones are out of whack, what have you.

Nursing and pumping make me extremely hungry — there’s never a time during the day that I don’t feel hungry, even during night-time feedings. It’s torture. So I’m eating a lot, whenever I can. My meals are generally pretty healthy, and I do try to include healthy snacks, but I also still have this unshakeable sweet tooth leftover from pregnancy. I just want to stuff myself with sweets 24/7. Doughnuts, cookies, pie, candy, cake — you name it; I’m eating it. I have eaten two mini Twix bars while typing this paragraph. I’ll probably eat 6-8 more today. I bought a 2-pound bag of Swedish Fish on Friday and it’s half gone. It’s ugly.

I think part of it is the craving from pregnancy that turned into a habit and now I’m addicted to sugar. I think another part of it is that eating sweets during the day, especially when I’m home alone with the twins and busting my ass to get through the day, feels like a way of treating my self. TREAT YO SELF, I say, reaching for the fifth cookie of the day, you survived another rough nap time/synchronized crying meltdown/messy diaper/projectile spit-up. I also don’t often get the time for a lot of self care or, hell, even basic needs. I don’t get to shower every day, for example. I often forget to brush my teeth. I don’t get time for leisurely trips to the bathroom to take care of, ahem, business. But it only takes two seconds to stuff my face with sugar, so I guess I’m doing THAT instead. Yikes.

So anyway. I don’t plan to try cutting calories deliberately until E&L are at least 6 months old. I assume that cutting calories will cause at least some dip in my milk supply, and I’d like to keep providing as much milk as I can for the first 6 months. After that, I’ll reevaluate. Right now, I am planning on trying to tackle the sweets issue. Once these bags of candy are gone, I’ll refrain from buying more. I’ll try to stick to food with “good” calories as opposed to “empty” ones (with the exception of wine/beer because like hell I am giving up my nightly glass right now). I’ll still eat as much as I want, but just not as much candy as I want. The Twix might be gone by tomorrow. I still have a pound of Swedish Fish left, though, so that should last me until at least…Wednesday. After that time, be prepared to hear my bitter, candy-free wail ringing through the air. You heard it here first.

Childbirth, Postpartum Care, and Breastfeeding in a “Baby-Friendly” Hospital

The hospital where the twins were born is a “baby-friendly” hospital. According to Baby-Friendly USA, that means:

The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) is a global program that was launched by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in 1991 to encourage and recognize hospitals and birthing centers that offer an optimal level of care for infant feeding and mother/baby bonding. It recognizes and awards birthing facilities who successfully implement the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding and the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes. The BFHI assists hospitals in giving all mothers the information, confidence, and skills necessary to successfully initiate and continue breastfeeding their babies or feeding formula safely, and gives special recognition to hospitals that have done so.

Our hospital takes pride in having recently achieved “baby-friendly” status, and we heard a lot about it during our childbirth class and hospital tour. The goals of the initiative are admirable, and it leads to a lot of what I saw as benefits in terms of how the mother and baby are cared for in the hospital. Of course, no system is perfect, and the baby-friendly approach has a few problems that I found not conducive to good care, at least as I see it.

I thought I would share my thoughts, based purely on my own personal experience giving birth to twins at my local, baby-friendly hospital, in December of 2015. Of course, my experience may or may not be representative of the baby-friendly initiative over all, and mostly, I assume, reflects the care provided by the specific hospital in question and by their staff in particular.

That said, here are what I saw as the pros and cons of giving birth in a baby-friendly hospital:

PROS:
Skin-to-skin as soon as possible. This is one of the best things that happened in my delivery experience. I had an unplanned C-section, and one of my biggest concerns about having a C-section before the fact was that I might not be able to hold the babies and do skin-to-skin contact immediately after the birth. In the operating room, they did have to give L oxygen immediately after his birth and the surgical team had to sew me up, but immediately after that we were in recovery, holding the babies, doing skin-to-skin, and breastfeeding. That time was really wonderful and will probably always be one of my best memories of the experience.

Quiet time for parents and baby immediately after birth. In the hour or two immediately following the birth, the hospital does not allow anyone into the room other than the mother, baby, and partner/support person. It’s meant to be a quiet time for family bonding before any other visitors are allowed in. In our case, we didn’t have any eager family members out in the waiting room ready for their chance to get their paws on the babies — but if we had? I would have been VERY GRATEFUL for the nurses who would have kept them away during these early hours.

Daily quiet time. Every afternoon there is a two-hour stretch of designated quiet time during which no visitors are allowed in the rooms. Again, visitors weren’t an issue for us (our family lives out of state and came to visit after we were home; we didn’t invite local friends to come to the hospital). This policy was still very appreciated, though, because it turned out that this also meant hospital staff would not come in the room during this time. Sometimes, these two hours were the only respite we got from the unrelenting stream of hospital staff coming in and out of our room. More on that later.

Lactation counselors always on staff. We were really grateful for the help these women gave when it came to nursing, pumping, and eventually formula supplementation. Our current nursing-bottle feeding-pumping regimen was devised by one of these LCs and it has worked out well for us. We were also grateful for the opportunity to check in with the LCs two days after discharge to weigh the babies and revisit our feeding plan.

Babies’ care (tests, bath, shots, etc.) takes place in the room; babies “room in” with mothers/parents. It was really nice not to have to have the babies taken away to the nursery for their standard care. Hospital staff would only take the babies to the nursery if they needed special care, for example, if ours had needed feeding tubes or respiratory help. Healthy babies stay in the room with parents. In our case, E and L were healthy enough to stay in the room with us 24/7, with a couple of exceptions when the nursery staff needed to check E’s lungs for suspected fluid (she was fine).

CONS:

No pacifiers. With the focus on breastfeeding and the fears of nipple confusion, the hospital is anti-pacifier. They will not give out pacifiers, as far as I know, for any reason. During the nights when the babies were going crazy with hunger because my milk had not come in and I couldn’t cluster feed them for any longer, we needed pacifiers. Luckily, we had brought a couple with us — but we basically felt like criminals giving them to the babies! Whenever a nurse or LC would come into the room, I would whisk the pacifiers into my pajama pocket so she wouldn’t see. It doesn’t seem like a great idea to deny parents a tool that might be needed, or to make them feel guilty for employing it. See immediately below for more on this theme.

No formula. Again, due to the emphasis on exclusive breastfeeding, the hospital is anti-formula. We knew this going in, especially after the breastfeeding class we had taken, during which the LC essentially said that feeding a baby formula would turn the baby into an obese, stupid, maladjusted sociopath. (Not much of an exaggeration.) Clearly, breastfeeding is an important ideology here and formula is seen as the enemy.

In our case, we fully intended to breastfeed, exclusively if possible. But we had premature twins who didn’t weigh much to begin with and were rapidly losing weight because my milk had not come in. Three days after their birth, they’d already lost more than 10% of their birth weights. E had gone from 6lbs 12oz to 5lbs 15oz, and tiny L had gone from 5lbs 3oz to just 4lbs 11oz. We were already worried, but we thought we were going to be discharged and planned to give them formula at home until my milk came in. At least they’ll have something to eat when we get home, we said. The hospital had other ideas.

They told us they would not discharge the babies due to their weight loss, and they wanted us to stay for at least another day until they stopped losing weight. But! My milk had not come in! There was no food for them to eat if we stayed in the hospital! How could this possibly make sense?! We knew the hospital did not feed formula and at no time was any formula offered to us.

Finally, as the super-condescending pediatrician (who was refusing to discharge us) was busy mansplaining that my milk should come in “any day now,” my husband interrupted him to ask if feeding formula was something we could do in the meantime. “Well,” said the pediatrician, gesturing at both of us with disapproval, “if that’s something you want to do, the two of you can have that conversation. You can talk about formula and decide if that’s something you want to do.” At this point I had heard enough of his condescension and (I had been crying throughout this conversation) I tearily jumped in and said “We would like to do that. DO YOU HAVE any formula HERE that we can give them NOW?”

At this point the nurse who had also been in the room left without a word and came back with formula for us a few minutes later. So, they DO have formula in the hospital. INTERESTING.

I mean, OF COURSE they have formula in the hospital. Many babies need it for a medical reason. (And in this hospital, it is apparently only given out for medical reasons.) The hospital just hadn’t considered our babies to need it, so they weren’t going to offer it or give it unless we specifically asked. But no one told us we could ask. I basically had to have an emotional breakdown because my babies were starving in order to get desperate enough to demand it.

When the nurse returned with the formula, she quietly told me, “I’m glad you said that. If you hadn’t asked about the formula, I would have told you it was time.” She had the air of sharing a confidence when she said this, as if it was something she wouldn’t have said in front of the doctor or other staff.

Needless to say, this part of the experience really colored my impression of the baby-friendly initiative. Worried parents shouldn’t have to fear that they are starving their babies and be made to feel guilty for asking for food.

Healthy twins gave the impression we needed less help. This is sort of an aspect of the above item, and isn’t specifically tied to baby-friendly policies, but I feel the need to mention it. The hospital had five sets of twins born over the weekend while we were there — a remarkable number for our small town, for sure. All the staff kept mentioning it with wonder. From what I gathered, I think our twins were maybe the only set (or one of two sets?) healthy enough to room in with their parents as opposed to being sent to the special care nursery for extra medical help. I think that because the other twins on the floor needed more help in comparison, and because ours were breastfeeding (even if only colostrum), the staff didn’t think we needed as much help as we really did.

Three patients in the same room. Because the babies room in with parents in a baby-friendly hospital (which is great!), we had three patients in the same room (me and both babies). This led to constant staff intrusions. Nurses, techs, lactation counselors, pediatricians, OBs, cleaning staff, and food delivery people were coming in and out of our room at all times for various tasks. It was insane. The morning we thought we were going to be discharged but weren’t, we had people in our room at all times from 7:00 AM to 2:00 PM, the time when quiet hours began. We never had the room to ourselves for more than 5-10 minutes at a time during those hours. I couldn’t even get dressed after a shower without having to hide from a nurse when she walked in on me while I was naked*. What I learned (too late) was that we could ask staff to coordinate better to avoid so many separate interruptions. If you find yourself in a similar situation, Reader, please ask your nurse to coordinate with the other personnel to minimize the number of separate staff visits.

In general, my impression of the baby-friendly initiative (as represented by my specific experience at my specific hospital) is that it would be better termed “breastfeeding-friendly.” It did not seem particularly friendly to babies and certainly not to parents.

*And here’s a bonus story about the worst nurse of all time:

This nurse, Jean, was the worst nurse of all time. She was on shift the afternoon/evening immediately following my C-section, and she started on the wrong foot by “not hearing” and/or “forgetting” and/or “losing the order” when I asked for my pain meds. It worked out that my first dose of pain medication didn’t come for about two hours after I initially asked for it. Because I was then “behind the pain,” they had to give me an additional med, D3m3rol, to help alleviate it. It made me so out of it that I couldn’t hold a conversation with anyone and I barely remember the first night with the babies. So Jean was on my shit list for this reason already.

That was a Friday night, and we didn’t see her again until Monday, the day we thought we would be discharged, but weren’t. Nurses over the weekend had all been WONDERFUL, so I was certainly dismayed to see Jean again. She managed to annoy me a thousand different ways during the day. She kept calling my son “Lionel,” for chrissakes. Not his name. At one point, I was in bed nursing one of the babies when she said she had to “check my bleeding” and proceeded to pull down my pants to look at my lady business. Oh…kay then? No other nurse had done that since the night of the C-section, when I was immobilized and had a catheter in.

The final straw came that afternoon, when I was sitting in the recliner where I had been trying to nurse E for about an hour. E was angry and feisty (because she was hungry and there was no milk), so latching on was really difficult. Plus, we’d had a steady stream of people interrupting us for the entire time (taking her vitals, taking my vitals, checking her lo-jack ankle tag, and all manner of other reasons). I was stressed and the baby was screaming and arching and bucking and obviously super hungry but not wanting to latch. And, as I mentioned, this had been going on for an hour.

So Jean comes in to “check my bleeding” again and at this point I was like, NOPE. “I am trying to feed my baby right now. Also, no other nurse has had to check my bleeding that way in the past two days, so I don’t think you need to do that. I’d like to decline.” She was nonplussed, to say the least, and tried to persuade me that checking my bleeding was an essential part of her job. Again, NOPE. I was not having it. I was DONE.

To make a long story short, after this horribly awkward interaction, she became convinced that I was emotionally Not Okay, so she had another nurse come in and talk to me. This gave me the opportunity to tell the other nurse that 1) I was emotionally FINE, thank you very much, and that 2) my only problem was that “I [could] not stand Jean and [did] not want to interact with her ever again.” I actually said this. So Our Nurse Jean thankfully became Not Our Nurse Anymore. Suck it, Jean.

Check-Ups

Yesterday was my 6-week postpartum check-up at my OB and today was the babies’ one-month check-up at their pediatrician. (Due to the difficulties of scheduling appointments both of these happened at about five weeks out. Or doctors’ offices exist in some kind of time warp, which…yeah, that actually seems more likely.)

For some reason, having had both of these check-ups really gives me the feeling that things are moving into a new phase — a phase where I am recovered and the babies are settling into their lives on the outside and things are approaching some sort of New Normal. Is this it? Have we arrived?

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I seriously wish I had both babies in this photo, but I haven’t yet learned to tandem wear them. Maybe next time. In the meanwhile, please note the triumphant return of my wedding rings and my FitBit!

At the OB, I was weighed for the first time since my 36-week appointment at the beginning of December. Since then, I am down about 25 pounds, leaving me about 35 pounds above my pre-pregnancy weight. I figure that 25 pounds accounts for two babies, two placentas, two full amniotic sacs, and a good amount of water weight and increased blood volume — the remaining 35 pounds is, I assume, the fat I put on all over my body. I bought a new pair of jeans the other day and learned that I am fully three sizes above my pre-pregnancy size, which seems to make sense with the 35 pounds (I tend to go up or down a pants size with every ~10 pounds of fat I gain or lose, in my experience). This is all good to know.

I’m not one to get terribly hung up on the number on the scale, but I will say I would like to return to my pre-pregnancy clothing size (I have a lot of great clothes I’d love to wear again!) and certainly to my pre-pregnancy level of fitness. So starting now, as I have been cleared to resume normal activity, I am going to try to institute some exercise. I have a barre3 subscription for the next twelve months and I’m also going to start walking and see how my body responds to that and then gradually add in some running. I assume I will have to put some time into rehabbing my abdominals, because they are weak as all hell right now, so I’ll need to be careful not to hurt my back or hips while my core is still so imbalanced.

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Look at those cheeks and chins!

At the pediatrician, the scale was moving in the other direction. L, who came home from the hospital at just 4lbs 11oz, had gained a full 3lbs and now weighs 7lbs 11oz. I am so happy to see that! It really shows in his delightful double chin. He’s still apparently in the first percentile (is that how you would say that?) for both weight and length, but we are happy with the gain and the doctor thinks he’s doing great. E, who weighed 5lbs 15oz when she came home from the hospital, now weighs 8lbs 6oz and feels like a tank (12th percentile). She is doing great as well! Clearly they are both still very small, but they are growing really nicely.

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Also they are super adorable. 

In other news, my husband is back at work full time this week, which will include some extra committee obligations and working dinners, so it’s really going to be a shock to the system not to have him around as much. (And I fully realize and appreciate how lucky we are to have had the last few weeks together at home!)  We team up on all the baby care, so doing it myself is noticeably much harder. I’ve had a few half days here and there when he went into the office and I flew solo at home, so I have had a little practice, but I know it’s not going to be easy to be home alone. Thank you in advance for putting up with the exhausted flailing that is sure to ensue.

They’re here. We did it.

Thursday, December 3rd, 2015

I have spent the day feeling stressed out and itchy. The itching I’ve had for a couple of months has gotten much worse over the last 24 hours or so, prompting me to call my doctor’s office due to worry that I might have cholestasis of pregnancy. The doctor thought I should come in for fasting bloodwork first thing in the morning, so I am preparing for that and sitting around worrying about the outcome when bedtime rolls around. Spoiler: none of this will turn out to matter.

I have made it to 36 weeks 4 days pregnant.

My husband is in bed reading and I’m on my way there when I go to use the bathroom in the front of the house. When I think I am done and go to stand up, I…seem to keep peeing. Or leaking. Or something. That’s odd. And then I just keep on leaking and leaking.

I make it back to our bedroom and then go immediately into our master bathroom and sit back down to discover I’m still leaking. Okay then. It seems like this is it: my water has broken. It’s about 8:45 PM.

I call out to my husband and alert him to what is going on and then phone Labor and Delivery to tell them — they say to find out if I could soak a maxi pad in 30-60 minutes and then call them back. I call them back in just ten minutes to report successful pad saturation and they tell me to get to the hospital.

We’re a pretty efficient machine getting out of the house — our hospital bags were already packed, so we grab a couple of last-minute items and put the dog in his travel crate so we can drop him off at the boarder on the way. We’re out the door by about 9:20.

By 9:50 we have checked in at Labor and Delivery and I’ve gotten a room. CW and I are delighted to find out that our L&D nurse just coming on shift was L, who had taught our childbirth classes back in September. So good to see a familiar and trusted face in an intense situation!

The on-call doctor is also someone we’ve met before at some random OB appointment when my regular doctor hadn’t been available — Dr. A. He hadn’t made the greatest impression on us at the time. Let’s just say if you are a medical professional in a women’s health field, maybe consider NOT using sexist idiomatic expressions in an effort to be folksy. So, anyway, I am not thrilled to see him, but I know he would be unlikely to be the doctor catching my babies because we expect to be there long past the end of his shift.

Oh yeah — I’m not having contractions. Braxton Hicks, random and painless? Story of my life. But real contractions? No. We are probably in it for the long haul.

Friday, December 4, 2015

By 12:30 AM I’m hooked up to an antibiotic IV, having tested positive for Group B Strep earlier in my pregnancy. The monitors are showing that my contractions are starting to get more regular, but there isn’t a great pattern yet. I can’t actually feel them myself.

And here, in my notes, where I wrote down the babies’ full names, I clarified to myself, “Writing these down in case I forget how to spell them later, in some kind of pain/drug/love haze.” Of course there was no way I could forget the names we had chosen for the babies, but I will say that going over the spelling on their birth certificate/SSN paperwork was a little anxiety producing! 

And I won’t be sharing their names here on the blog, which is open to the whole ding-dang internet. I don’t mind sharing their names privately or on more locked-down social media, but they’ll stay off this site. 

I get started on a pitocin drip in a very small amout at about 1:30 AM with plans to increase the dosage every thirty minutes. At this point, my cervix was still only 3cm dilated and 90% effaced — no change since my last OB appointment earlier in the week. My weak, painless contractions have done nothing so far to help dilation. Thanks for nothing, contractions.

At 2:30, after having the pitocin increased a couple of times, I can now feel contractions in my belly, but nothing lower down. They still don’t hurt.

From my notes: “3:15 doop de doooo nothing to see here.”

For the past several hours, CW and I have just been sitting up in the dark L&D room, waiting for things to happen. For the pitocin to start doing something, for the contractions to get real, for things to move along. But nothing is really changing. We’re excited and ready to go, and… we’re waiting.

At 4:00 AM, contractions start to be painful in my back and lower down. I decide I will request my epidural the next time Nurse L comes in. She told us it takes an hour from the request to actually receive the epidural, so I should plan ahead and not wait until I’m desperate. Dr. A has also told me I can call for it “any time.” I figure, why wait? But I also think that probably I am being a wimp about this — I could wait longer — but there are no medals, so let’s do it.

At 4:20 AM I have requested the epidural. Also, my back is killing me, so I guess it’s in good time.  I’m squirming around in bed trying to find a comfortable position and I think my restlessness may have dropped one of the babies off the heart monitor. We’ll see.

I have never farted this much that I can remember.

The IV is giving me more fluids in preparation for the epidural, and it’s making a loud whirring noise and also feels cold.

CW is trying to doze on the couch.

4:29 AM OMG HORRIBLE LOUD ALARM — which turns out to be the sound the IV makes when it has eptied a bag of fluids. We finally figure out we need to use the nurse call button and get her to come shut the alarm off. So that’s pleasant.

By 4:40 AM, I’m taking my last trip to the bathroom as a free-standing, mobile person before being given the epidural. I will not walk to the bathroom on my own again for maybe two days. I take a break from the monitors and sit up for a while (a position that doesn’t work on the monitors because every time I sit up Baby A’s moves away from the belt and her heartbeat disappears). Even just a few minutes in a different position feels so good. Nurse L gives me a warm blanket for my lap and I’m feeling so much better. In this position, contractions are more like really bad period cramps than horrible side stitches.

Soon, the anesthesiologist comes in to administer the epidural. It’s really not that bad. I have to sit up, bend forward, and lean on my husband’s shoulders and chest while the doctor places the needle and catheter. It’s not terribly painful at all, and I just try not to think nervous thoughts about needles being poked into my spine. Meanwhile, CW starts to feel faint and announces he has to sit down. I’m busy laughing at him but trying not to move while Nurse L takes over as my person-to-lean-on. CW does not technically pass out, for the record. The epidural at first makes my lower body feel tingly and pain free, but not 100% numb.

Shift change. Our nurse L is sad to go before seeing the babies be born, but our new nurse M is very nice. The new OB on call is Dr. L, whom we haven’t met before but whom we immediately like. He seems smart and willing to explain everything to us. The sun is up outside our window.

By 8:40 AM my cervix is still only at 4 cm. It seems like I didn’t mark down when I went from 3 to 4, but it’s been at 4 for quite some time by now. Not much progress. At this point, the epidural has fully kicked in and my legs are like dead logs attached to my body. I do not like the feeling one bit.

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Is it wrong that this photo makes me think of Frank Booth?

An hour later, the nurse comes in to tell us that Baby B’s heart rate has dropped and he isn’t responding well to the contractions. I’ve been repositioned in bed for better circulation and been given more fluids and an oxygen mask. My BP was a bit low. The baby’s heart rate perks right back up. Whew.

It’s 12:20 PM. At this point, we’ve had a few more incidents with Baby B’s heart rate dipping too much during/after contractions and I’m starting to get nervous about it. Instead of increasing the pitocin every thirty minutes, as before, we are keeping the dose the same so as not to increase the strength of contractions and distress Baby B any further. I’m still only at 4 cm. We are “being patient” to see if I progress without increasing the dose. I have a feeling about this already. My body has shown no signs of wanting to go into real labor or to dilate further, and I certainly don’t think it’s going to start now, without increasing the meds at all. I feel like we are looking at a C-section.

From my notes: “I just farted super loud and couldn’t even feel it. Smelled horrific. Yikes. My body is not my own.”

At some point here there’s another dip in Baby B’s heart rate and after the nurse comes in to give me more oxygen, we notice she has turned the pitocin drip completely off. We know where this is headed.

It’s 1:40 PM. Dr L has come in to talk to us about how things are progressing (i.e. how things are not progressing) and the need for a C-section. Fine by me. I don’t want to worry about my Baby B’s heart rate for one more second.

Things get in motion fast. The OR had been booked for a scheduled C-section at 2:00, but Dr. L says we are bumping this woman and taking her time. “She won’t mind.” Nurses come in to get me prepped (shaved) and give CW his scrubs and hair net.

My OB, the awesome Dr. H, surprises us by popping into the room in her street clothes to say hello and tell us she’ll be scrubbing in to assist Dr. L on the surgery. I am so glad to see her! How did she get there so fast?

By 2:00, we are in the OR. There are both Drs. L and H, a handful of nurses, two pediatric teams (one for each baby), and I think two (?) anesthesiologists. One adds some additional things to my epidural catheter to numb me more for the surgery, and the other jokes around with CW and takes his phone so he can snap photos for us. I’m sure he had other stuff to do in the OR but I’m not sure what.

I’m sort of giddy and nervous and during the prep for surgery I can’t stop making chit-chat with everyone around me. I have no idea what kind of idiotic things I am saying, but I can’t shut up. At one point we are talking about the three other sets of twins born at the hospital this weekend, and I launch into how to determine the probability of same-sex vs boy-girl twins using a coin-flip problem as an example. I’m sure the surgical team was impressed and riveted by my mathematical know-how. (It’s 25% girl-girl, 25% boy-boy, and 50% boy-girl, FYI.)

The oddest things I remember from the surgery are:

1) being moved from my bed to the operating table, which, with my completely dead lower body, feels weird and scary and like I am going to fall on the floor, and

2) being able to see the entire surgery in the reflection on the surface of a light above me. YES. I can actually SEE THE WHOLE THING. And I do watch a lot of it. I’m very curious about medical stuff, and when else will I ever get a chance like this?!

The doctors have to prep me and everything else before CW can come in, but then they start cutting a minute or two before he gets in the room, and I’m a little worried because where is he and why did they already start? In retrospect, the way things happened so fast, I think the situation was probably a bit more emergent than I realized. The doctors and nurses all seemed so calm, but hot damn they got us into that OR fast and didn’t waste a second. At any rate, CW gets in there soon enough and sits right by my head the whole time.

At 2:37 PM, our baby girl, to be known on the blog as E, is born. I see them lifting her out of my abdominal cavity in the reflection on the light above my face. What I don’t realize is how big she is — the doctors and nurses all comment on it and when they show her to CW and me quickly over the curtain, he says something, too. They hand her off to the pediatric team and from across the room I hear her cries bleating out nice and loud. Good crying, baby girl!

We’re shocked to hear her weight: 6 lbs 12 oz. We’d just been hoping to get them both over 5 lbs.

At 2:39 PM, our baby boy, whom I’ll call L, is born. He had flipped around to breech position when he finally had the space, so he was removed by his feet and the first thing I see in the reflection above me is his little butt.

CW tells me later that he came out blue.

The pediatric team is giving him oxygen and CW is over there with them, talking back across the room to me to tell me what’s going on. I keep hearing E’s cries and hoping it’s L. When he finally cries for himself, CW tells me it’s him, our boy, crying, and that’s when I finally tear up. They’re both here. We made it.

The pediatric teams get the babies all swaddled up and give them to CW to hold right next to me while I’m crying and being stitched back together. I remember lying there looking at him holding them and the first words out of my mouth are “CW, he looks JUST LIKE YOU,” which our son absolutely does. (Doctors and nurses all vocally agreed.) The second thing: “How on earth were they both INSIDE MY BODY?!”

Another surprise: baby boy L weighs in at only 5 lbs 3 oz. Throughout the pregnancy up to our most recent ultrasound at 33 weeks, they’ve been estimated to weigh within a few ouces of each other, but now there’s a size difference of over a pound and a half! How did that happen?! Still, that’s about 12 pounds of baby all together. I reiterate: how on earth were they both inside my body?

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L in the background, E screaming in the foreground

After my incision is closed up, all four of us go to recovery together and I’m able to immediately do skin-to-skin with both babies, who decide at that point that they’re ready to breast feed. So there we are, all four of us, me tandem breastfeeding two healthy babies, just moments after the birth. I’ll never forget it. C-section or not, I’d say this went pretty damned well.

They’re here. We did it.

I have many, many other thoughts on my postpartum experience in the hospital, but I’ll save those for another time.

36 Weeks: Still Here

A few weeks ago I really did not believe if make it this far, but here we all are. 

  
That’s us. 

The Babies are the Size of: I forget what boring fruit or vegetable the comparison was this week, but the “fun and games” comparison was a Cabbage Patch Doll. Signed on the butt by Xavier Roberts, I must assume. Y’all. Do you KNOW how obsessed I was with Cabbage Patch Dolls as a child? I had SO MANY. So I am very familiar with them and they are…not small. The animal comparison was a chihuahua. I’ll let you sit there and imagine two chihuahuas wrestling it out inside your abdominal cavity. 

How I’m Doing: I’m doing well. As I was telling a friend the other night, as more time goes by,  I am necessarily moving past the fear of them being born too early and moving more into the excitement of getting to meet my son and daughter soon. 

The past week has been quite nice. Our school takes a break for the full week of Thanksgiving, which means my husband and I got to be home together all week. Who knows when the next time will be that we get to spend a stretch of days together enjoying our house and relaxing, just the two of us?

The All-Important Status of My Belly Button: As you might see in the photo, it appears my navel is moving into an outie position, but don’t believe everything you see! That’s just the upper edge of it protruding. Underneath that, the actual navel is still very much in. My skin occasionally stings with the feeling of being overstretched, but no new visible stretch marks yet. We shall see. 

Movement: normally the babies kick up a storm, stretching out my sore muscles and ligaments and rearranging my organs. The other day, though, I had a little bit of a fit because, although they were moving, their movements just felt so quiet and subtle that I worried something was off. Was I only feeling one? Were they somehow weakening? So of course I monitored and counted their kicks and called L&D (it was a weekend day) and asked about it and the lady on the phone was like, it doesn’t matter how big or small the kicks are; any movement counts. Then an hour later I ate a bowl of spicy chili for lunch and the kiddos basically started flailing around like a couple of maniacs in there. So I guess I was due for a stupid freakout that turned out to be about nothing. 

Doctor’s Appointment: My doctor came in the room today and the first thing she said was, “I can’t believe you’re still hanging on!” She said she kept calling in to L&D over the long weekend to see if I was up there. When she says stuff like this, I feel like a minor medical marvel, really. I’m maybe just a tidge more than 3cm and 90% effaced at this point, not much if any progress from last week. So, we are still just waiting for labor to start!

I had the Group B Strep screening and a syphillis test (did y’all know they do that? I didn’t) today. In suspense waiting for the results! Heh.

In addition, I had my weekly NST. For whatever reason, the hospital was packed and understaffed and it took forever to get my test started. Once I was hooked up to the monitors, I quickly became REALLY uncomfortable. I was getting back pain and cramps in my sides and tons of BH contractions and I hated to try to move because I didn’t want to lose either baby on the monitors. I eventually had to shift around a few times, though. The test wound up taking maybe two hours all in all because additionally they weren’t getting the complete data on one baby so they kept extending the time. I was so uncomfortable and hungry I wanted to cry. 

I eventually got to leave and get lunch, however, and I’m now lying in bed typing this on my phone because that stupid NST test took it out of me and I don’t want to sit up with my laptop. The struggle is real. 

Coming Up: Sunday, I will hit 37 weeks by my calendar, but my next appointment isn’t until the following Thursday. Will I make it that far? If I do, will I be begging for an induction, or will I go to 38? We’ll find out!