August 2011

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I still have so much to write about – Leo and Zoe’s birth story and all of our experiences in the NICU and more – but today Leo came home, and that’s what I need to write about. I only have time for one little part of it, and what I want to write about most is Samantha’s reaction.

For the past week, since I returned from the hospital, Sam has been getting more and more angry, especially with me. I mean, she’s getting shuffled around between our friends and my parents, and Adam and I have been at the hospital a lot and very busy when we’re home. We’ve tried to give her what attention we can, but she’s not stupid. She’s too mature to be fooled by gifts or extra TV or sweets. She wants to be number one again, and she knows that is changing. And on top of that, she has not been able to see Leo or Zoe. Because it is flu season (since when does it start so early?), there are no visitors except parents allowed on the NICU floor.

Sam has had her good moments. The other night she came up with the idea to have a date night with me and then a date night with her dad so that we could have some one-on-one time. I took her out for sushi and the next night Adam took her out for barbecue. That worked out really well for all of us, and it was her idea. But mostly, she just goes around the house stomping her foot and saying, “But I want it!” We’re muddling through as best we can.

But today, when Leo came home, she was so incredibly thrilled. She held him, she burped him, she gave him a bottle. She couldn’t get enough of him. While I was nursing him, she stood over us the whole time, patting his head so gently, and kissing him over and over, saying, “He’s so cute.” When I told her to be gentle, she said, “I will never ever hit him or spit at him or…or…or kick him. Never. I promise.” She’s already fallen in love with his scrunched up forehead and his tiny hands. When we talk about her being an older sister, or how she now has a little brother, her face shines like nothing I’ve ever seen before.

The sweetest thing of all requires a little context. Part of our bedtime routine with Sammy is that, just before we leave the room, we tuck her in. And it has to be done in exactly the right way or she will not be happy. We have to pull the sheet up first, then the comforter, and we have to pull it “all the way up to my neck.” She tells us this every night, as if we would forget: “Pull it all the way up to my neck, mommy.” And as I was nursing Leo, Sam took the burp cloth, put it on top of him and tucked it under his chin, saying, “I pulled it all the way up to his neck.”

Is this what people mean about the joy of multiple children? Is there more? I can’t wait to find out.

Announcing the arrival of two brand new human beings!

Leonidas Jeffrey Mossoff (Leo), born August 20, 2011 at 2:42pm, 4 pounds 7 ounces:

Zoe Alleyne Mossoff, born August 20, 2011 at 3:00pm, 3 pounds 14 ounces:

These are the very first photos of them. I like them better than the ones where they’re all cleaned up and bundled.

They are both in the NICU but doing great. They won’t have any health issues – they just need to grow a bit more before they come home, which could be anytime between this weekend and another three weeks. I was hoping to cook them myself for a while longer, but I went into labor early Saturday morning and no matter how much I tried to hold them in, they were determined to come out. The whole birth experience was magical. Leo and Zoe are magical. I can hardly believe they are real. But they are. They’re here. It took 27 months, 4 losses, and the magic of science, but we made these two babies. It was definitely worth it.

34 Weeks

I’m over the hump! My pre-eclampsia symptoms have not progressed and everything seems stable. And at 34 weeks, Zoe and Leo are going to be fine, even if I go into labor tonight. This is the magic time where everybody breaths a sigh of relief.

And speaking of that, I was afraid last night might have been the night for a while. I was having all kinds of pain and strange goings-on, but it turned out to be nothing.  I did get a little taste of the imminence of the big event though, when I thought I might be going in to labor. At first I was scared, but then I accepted that it might happen and I actually started looking forward to seeing my two babies. I really, really want to keep them cooking for a while longer, but it wouldn’t be devastating if they came now. And going in to labor on my own is preferable to being induced for some problem like hypertension. I figure that if I go into labor, there is probably some reason for it that makes it the best thing for me and/or the babies – not a mystical reason, like “everything happens for a reason,” but a real causal reason that we just can’t see because we don’t really know what the heck triggers labor to begin with.

I had an OB appointment this afternoon and I was really nervous. I had gotten used to going in every day and it had been a whole six days since I had had any kind of checkup. But my blood pressure is stable and nothing new has cropped up. The kids are growing and responding to stimuli. Today, my doc got fed up with waiting for Zoe to have a heart acceleration on the non-stress test so he poked my belly with a cattle prod. Well, I guess it was more like a vibrator, but it felt like he had electrocuted me and Zoe went nuts, as she was supposed to. It was hilarious.

So things are good right now. Once again I’m feeling like my body is good at this pregnancy thing. I’m starting to trust my body again. I had such an easy time with Sam, so it’s been kind of a let down to have had all these problems this time. But then again, what I’ve had aren’t full-fledged problems. They’ve all been Almosts and Maybes. The gestational diabetes thing was a joke from the start. (Today I told my doc some of my numbers and he wouldn’t even listen to any more and told me to forget the whole thing. Ha! I was right!) And I’m not sure if I have even been officially diagnosed with pre-eclampsia, or even pregnancy induced hypertension. We were just watching very closely for a while there. I know my doctor is no longer seriously concerned because he told me I can go another week before my next checkup. So, my body really is doing okay. I don’t even have stretch marks on my belly. Not bad for a 41 year old.

Steroids!

My 24 hour urine test came back showing some protein in it, but we had expected that. It wasn’t any higher than we would have guessed, based on my other symptoms and what they’ve seen in the regular urine samples I leave at each trip to the OB. But my doc still decided that he would recommend that I have the steroid injections to speed up development of the babies’ lungs. (He said he hemmed and hawed about this for quite a bit before calling me. It’s totally borderline.) It’s a standard procedure when an early delivery is likely, and there is a lot of evidence that it does indeed help them with breathing when they are born. Side effects for both me and them are not a big concern. The only thing is that it is not clear whether or not the positive effects last beyond a week or so, so we might not get any benefit out of them if I keep chuggin’ along for a few weeks.

The doc still insists that he doesn’t think I’m going to have any sudden problems. But it is possible that things could go wrong very quickly, and the shots wouldn’t have time to be effective if we had to do an emergency delivery. I agreed. So I had a shot on Thursday and a shot on Friday, bringing my total doctor appointments to nine in fifteen days.

Those steroids have made me feel like a million bucks! What a miracle drug! Every pregnant woman should get steroids. I have more energy, my gastrointestinal issues have disappeared, I can roll over in bed without it feeling like I had to carry a piano up the stairs, and I even got through the night with only two trips to the bathroom last night. Best of all, I can feel my fingers again. I’ve been living with this carpel tunnel for so long, I had forgotten what it is like to feel normal. I didn’t even wear the wrist braces last night, which made me feel so free! I still have a tiny bit of numbness just in the fingertips, but it doesn’t hurt and it’s not nearly as irritating as what I’ve been used to for the past few months. It makes me realize how far from normal I’ve been feeling, and now I’m looking forward eagerly to feeling normal again.

I tried to pin my doctor down on his best guess for when I’ll deliver. He told me that at 36 weeks, he’s just looking for reasons to deliver. A bad headache (pre-eclampsia symptom) would be enough at that point, since the benefits of keeping the babies in longer are marginal. 36 weeks is August 31. It’s going to be a photo finish for me to meet my goal of two more September babies!

Here are some quick before and after photos of our master bath. I haven’t taken any after pictures of the other two smaller bathrooms yet, but I should because they’re pretty cool, too.

Entrance to bathroom before. Notice that there is no door between the bedroom and the vanity.

The new entrance. Isn’t this an enticing view? We have a door! Now we can brush our teeth and not wake up the other person. We plan to change the ugly gold handle on the door eventually, when we replace the door hardware throughout the house.

The overall picture, before. Note the door between vanity and toilet/bath area. If you’re going to have a separate door in the bath, it needs to be just for the toilet. Duh. Also note the harsh, bare bulb, 80′s lighting, with at least two sockets broken. Our closet is on the wall to the left, out of view. We didn’t change that at all. The wall where the towel is hanging disappears in the remodel.

The overall picture, after. We can’t get the glass shower door installed for a few weeks so we have a shower curtain up temporarily. The shower and floor tile is actually grey, but it does have brown in it, and that’s what the photo seems to show. It’s a textured porcelain tile, which does not feel cold to walk on. The vanity is also grey, not brown. The shower floor and niche tile are glass mosaic tile, with all kinds of bright colors in it, which is hard to capture in a photo, but which was one of my favorite design elements. But yes, the walls are purple! I was a bit worried about having the toilet sticking out like that, but we were limited by the architecture. Originally, we were going to push back the wall where the shower faucet is, but it was full of duct-work. Instead, we moved the toilet out towards the vanity and made the shower about eight inches wider than it was when it was a tub/shower combo. We made decisions like on the fly and I like the way it turned out, with the shower in that more narrow niche. We were originally going to tile just the shower walls but when we realized we had that niche, flanked so nicely by symmetrical partial walls, we decided to bring the tile all the way out to the edge, and I think that makes a huge impact – I love it!

The old vanity. Note that there are cabinets, but no drawers. Tall cabinets are not an efficient use of space, especially when there is plumbing blocking much of it. Also note the carpeted floor.

The new vanity. Ah, perfection. I love the “floating” vanity style and all the modern elements. Finally, sinks with only one handle each! Whenever I see a two-handled sink I want to scream, “Yes, God damn it, the Parthenon!” and then launch into a monologue about how ridiculous it is to follow old rules that were used before we had new materials and methods of construction. Come on, one handle is objectively better! We picked this vanity from a web site and got very lucky that it goes so well with the tile. It was probably our riskiest decision. It’s good quality, too. All the drawers and cabinets have that “no-slam” feature so you can just tap them closed. It feels solid. Also, this vanity is a whole foot shorter than the old one, but it feels like it has more storage, because of the drawers. The basin sinks also create a nice definition of space for stuff on the counter. Of course, the whole vanity is installed higher than the old one, so we don’t have to lean down so far. I’ll have to wait until I lose my pregnant belly before I can appreciate that, though. For now, I have to stand sideways to lean over the sink.

I can’t believe I used this sink for almost three years. Yuk! Cracked, stained, impossible to clean, impossible to get your hands fully under the faucet because it’s so close to the back of the sink, and impossible to change the water pressure or temperature with soapy hands not just because of the two handles, but because they were goddamn cylinders with very little grip. This was bad design, even for the 80s. Oh, I could go on.

Another view of the new vanity showing the matching medicine cabinets with shelving (great storage!). You can also see a bit of the awesome light fixtures above. You can see in the reflection in the left mirror that we also installed two recessed halogen lights in the ceiling in the vanity area, so we don’t have to put super high-wattage glaring bulbs everywhere. The recessed lights are also on a dimmer. I’m a firm believer in dimmers for almost every light fixture. (Sorry, federal government, that rules out your CFL garbage.) We plan to install towel racks for the hand towels on either side of the vanity (love the efficiency of that!), but we need to wait to see exactly how the glass shower door will work before we decide on those, since they’ll need to match whatever towel racks we use in the bathing area.

Before, the ugly tub and shelving. I detest shower curtains. They always blow in and touch you. It’s creepy. We don’t mind losing the tub because it was so small and shallow it was really useless for an adult. We didn’t have space for a real tub. No big sacrifice for me. Also, who in their right mind would choose shelving that allows everything to fall through the cracks? I get the idea that this is a bathroom and you don’t want standing water on a shelf, but there are other options, people! And if you’re so concerned about standing water, why is the shelving made of metal that gets rusty? Again, I can’t believe I lived with this for so long.

Even in this shot, it’s hard to see the reflective glass tile in the niche, but I was trying to capture the contrast between the matte finish on the wall tile and the iridescense of the glass. This was taken before they had cleaned all the grout off the tile, so it’s a bit murky. But imagine the difference between being surrounded by this, versus standing in a squeaky, cheap tub with boring white tile, getting touched by a shower curtain. I’m happy!

I also have a couple of videos of the construction process and the finished result, but I haven’t gotten them up on YouTube yet. I’ll try to get that done when I take photos of the other two bathrooms.

33 Weeks

Whew! Seven doctor appointments in two weeks, including one trip to the hospital.

The bottom line is that my doctor was monitoring me very closely because of the signs of possible pre-eclampsia. The trip to the hospital was just to run bloodwork, which I found ridiculous, but wasn’t going to argue with. It was a Friday and if they had drawn my blood at the office and sent it to the lab we wouldn’t have had the results until Monday, whereas we got results within an hour at the hospital. That bloodwork, along with all my other tests, was fairly normal. And since then, everything has pretty much stabilized. My blood pressure is elevated but not rising. I’ve actually lost some weight and we know the babies are growing normally, so we know that it was fluid retention that has lessened. As my doctor says, rest is the key. As long as I lie down for much of the day, I can see just by the swelling in my feet that I’m doing okay. If I’m active, I balloon up and my pressure rises.

The other crazy thing I had to do last week was collect my urine for a full 24 hours. They gave me a gigantic jug and I almost filled it. It was a horrible, horrible experience. I had to keep the jug in the fridge, so every trip to the bathroom (there must have been about 20 of them) meant getting the jug, peeing into a smaller cup, pouring it into the jug, repeating as necessary, returning the jug to the fridge and throwing away the cup, and washing my hands. The worst part was the four trips downstairs to do this process in the middle of the night. I swear, I wonder how many women trip and fall down the stairs when forced to do this damn test. We haven’t gotten the results from this test yet – it’s just to look for protein in the urine. It’s my last test before we can relax a bit and say that I’m not in imminent danger of needing to deliver the babies. Also, I get to go back to weekly appointments instead of the insanity of going in two or three times a week.

So, I’m not on bed rest, but I’m continuing my own campaign to rest as much as possible. I try to stay horizontal at least 15 hours a day. It is much easier now that I have my wonderful babysitter to help each day, and because the bathrooms are finally finished. (I hope to get some photos up soon – the master bath is spectacular!) My stress level has gone way down. We’ve started making preparations for the arrival of Leo and Zoe – finally! A good friend came over on Sunday and helped clean all the toys and junk out of the nursery. We also cleaned out the eating area next to the kitchen which has served as Sammy’s playroom for the past couple of years. We moved all of her stuff down to the basement (which is no longer filled with junk!) and now I have a nice big space for Leo and Zoe to hang out. Eventually, we plan to put up gates and make that their safe space to play without much supervision. Sammy has a new “big girl” playroom, where, I tell her, she can keep her toys safe from the babies. Things are coming together. If I had to bring babies home tomorrow, it would not be a disaster. (Of course if they came tomorrow, they’d be in the hospital for a while anyway.)

Leo and Zoe are just over four pounds each now. If they were born now, they’d probably still need help breathing, and they’d have trouble eating and lose some weight, but every week, I can relax more about the possibility of severe problems due to premature delivery.

All other signs of health are positive. My doctor tells me every visit, “These are two very healthy babies.” Yesterday we did a little 4-D ultrasound, just for fun, and I got a decent view of Zoe’s face for the first time. (If you’ve never seen a 4-D ultrasound, the lumpy things are remnants of movement. You have to be like Michelangelo and imagine the perfect form underneath.) Unfortunately, Leo’s head is too low and squished into a small space to get a good picture. Here is little-Zoe and big-Me, and a bonus picture of medium-Sammy since I’ve been neglecting sharing her with you lately:

 

Sammy got her hair cut a few days ago. There was a drinking fountain in the salon which she could just barely reach with her lips if she stood on the tips of her tippy tippy toes. She had one drink, and then later came back for more – mostly for the challenge, I think. I watched from a few yards away as she struggled to coordinate the pushing of the button with the standing on the tippy toes with the placement of her mouth. Just then, the woman who had cut her hair saw her efforts and ran over to “help” by lifting her up. I swear, Sammy almost hit her across the face, also yelling, “No, stop!”

There was no actual hitting – Sammy just lashed out with her hands, but the woman was behind her so she missed. The woman immediately put her down and Sammy got her drink and didn’t make any more fuss about it, but was obviously a little bit disturbed. As we were leaving, I told Sammy that she was entirely right to say “no” to the help, and that the woman should not have picked her up without asking, but that she needed to control her hitting. I told her that a firm “no” would have sufficed. But thinking about it later, I shouldn’t have reproved her even for that. What would you do if you were in the middle of a physical task that requires focus, and some stranger came up behind you without warning and picked you up by the waist? I’m not sure I’d lash out, but I certainly wouldn’t blame an adult who did so. The important lesson in that situation for Sammy should have been that she did essentially the right thing, not the wrong thing. I should have kept my mouth shut completely.

I love my Sammy’s independence, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to be a part of killing it. Shame on me. Next time, I’ll do better. It’s all a matter of being on the lookout for the good, not the bad. Kids don’t need to have every minor mistake corrected. (They make so many mistakes it’s not like we parents could ever run out of material!) It’s much more important that their achievements are recognized, and their virtues acknowledged. I think it’s all too easy to slip into the parental mode of just hovering over the child, waiting for the next “teachable moment” to guide their behavior. I’m a big believer in using those moments, but in our roles as guides I think we can get too caught up in looking for those situations. That is what turns even the best of us into the “critical parents” that we all strive so hard to avoid becoming. Let’s all just take a chill pill. I will.

32 Weeks

I’ve done so many updates on the pregnancy you’d think I’d have nothing left to say for my weekly update, but I skipped most of the fun parts.

Leo and Zoe are basically head-down right now, and they are getting less and less likely to flip. Zoe is still questionable, but even if she ends up breech, this doesn’t rule out a vaginal delivery. I’m doing some research now on how to convince my doctor to allow that even if Zoe is breech. Of course, I could end up with a C-section tomorrow for other complications.

Speaking of tomorrow, I have another doctor’s appointment. That will be three in one week. They are monitoring me very closely because of the blood pressure, but still, no diagnosis of pre-eclampsia. Since making a concerted effort to spend more time lying down, I lost two pounds in four days. That’s all water-weight, obviously, and that is a very, very good thing. I’m definitely helping myself and the kids by taking it easy.

I think I mentioned that my doctor agrees with me about the gestational diabetes bullshit. He said I can quit all the fuss, eat my own way, and just monitor my blood glucose every other day. And he only wants that done because it still is possible that my hormones could kick up my insulin resistance at any point. See, he wasn’t such a bad doctor after all.

I had my first-ever non-stress test on Tuesday. L&Z did their job and had some accelerations in their heartbeats. Everything that relates directly to them and their health continues to be absolutely perfect. They are getting close to being about four pounds each now.

Our “nanny” is working out great. She’s taking Sammy to the water park this afternoon. She keeps Sammy occupied for at least two hours a day, which is enough time for me to get some really good rest. She is also helping with dishes and laundry and opening the zillions of Amazon.com boxes that seem to arrive every day. Yes, I’ve started ordering supplies for the babies – finally!

The master bathroom is supposed to be done today! (That means it will be done by the end of the day tomorrow.) We can finally move on with our lives. I’m already finding that my stress level has gone way down. On Saturday, a friend is coming over to help me get started on sorting out the baby clothes and toys from Sam’s current things. We still have a lot of other projects, but they are not as “do-or-die” as the bathrooms were. Hopefully I’ll have some photos to share early next week. I must say, it is going to be absolutely fabulous!

And now that things are calming down, I’m able to start daydreaming about my babies again. I barely gave them any thought for the past month. I think I’m starting to get excited now. Only eight weeks until my due date, which is really quite irrelevant. Only six weeks until my scheduled C-section, which is probably the latest they will be born. Only five weeks until I am officially “term” with twins  - the average (or is it mean?) delivery time. And Sam came two weeks early, so only three weeks until I would anticipate the possibility of going into labor for completely normal and healthy reasons.

But I’m still holding out for two more September babies. Anyone want to make guesses as to their birth date? My guess is September 4 – one month from today.

So I’ve put myself on partial bed rest, and my condition is stable for now. My doc says to keep doing what I’m doing. I could develop pre-eclampsia any time, but as of now, I’m still technically not diagnosed with it.

We had some on-line friends come and visit today for the first time. (It was great to finally meet you!) I’m always a bit more sensitive about my parenting when around other parents, so I noticed something: I’ve started yelling at Sam. I’m not screaming at her in anger, but yelling her name to get her attention quite often.

She happens to be in a phase right now where she just does not listen. (Please don’t tell me it’s not a phase.) Both Adam and I have become very annoyed at having to repeat ourselves, and seeing her doing exactly what we ask her not to do (or not doing what we did ask her to do), even though it seemed that she had agreed since she didn’t object verbally to the instructions. So we’ve been working on this in constructive ways: we’ve been teaching her how to look us in the eyes when we are speaking to her, and how to acknowledge that she has heard us, and how, if she doesn’t agree with some instruction that we give her, she must first comply, but then she is free to tell us with words that she doesn’t agree and why not. (So, if we say, “stop jumping on the couch,” she must stop, and then tell us why she thinks she should be able to, if she disagrees.) We are careful to listen to her, and to model proper acknowledgement for her. And we’ve explained why it is in her interest to listen to what people say, to acknowledge them, and then to object politely if she disagrees. We’re working on all that, but I know this is one that is going to take a very long time to sink in, so I don’t expect immediate progress.

Still, when I tell her to stop grabbing another child’s toy out of his hands and she completely ignores me, I must act. Normally, I would remove the toy from her hands for her. But now, I am physically limited. So what can I do but yell? I yell her name and it gets her attention. Usually, she’ll come to me and discuss it after that – it’s just getting her attention that is the problem. I don’t really see what alternative I have right now.

But I’m worried that this will become a bad habit, especially since I’m still going to be tied to the couch much of the time after Leo and Zoe are born. This might be my very first parent-of-more-than-one challenge! I can’t stand the idea of being that mom at the playground yelling out her child’s name over and over. If anyone has any advice on other ways to grab Sam’s attention without having to get out of my chair, or how not to let this become habitual, please let me know!

Mental Set

I have this mental set I can’t seem to get rid of. It is:

“I am poor.”

Adam and I were “poor” for so long. I’m sure everyone has different ideas of what “poor” means. What I mean is that we had to watch every dollar (although not every penny), and we had to live without a lot of things that would have made our lives so much easier. We shared one car for many years, which was not easy. We never bought a new appliance. We spent almost no money on clothing or jewelry. Things like a pedicure or a massage were completely out of the question. The only luxuries we permitted ourselves were travel and dining out, and we only did those in the most limited ways. But, we were never in danger of running out of money for food, or being late with our mortgage, or anything like that. However, we were one disaster away from that, since we had virtually no savings (excluding retirement funds). We were definitely living from paycheck to paycheck for a decade.

Only recently we came out of this state, due to a number of factors. Now, we have a little nest egg for emergencies, and we don’t have to freak out if the dishwasher breaks and we need to spend a few hundred dollars to replace it. We can take those things in stride, as normal expenses. (And that’s a good thing, since everything in this house seems to be breaking down.) We’re definitely not rich or even well-off. We are simply “secure.” It’s a wonderful feeling.

But I’m having a really hard time getting used to spending money on certain things. I have it in my head that we can’t afford babysitting, let alone any kind of child-care. So when I realized that we would have two toddlers right at the time when I’d be starting to homeschool Sammy, my mind was open to spending money on private school, but the idea of hiring a nanny for the twins (which will be much less expensive) never occurred to me until someone suggested it right here on my blog!

And now, when I’m facing the possibility of bed rest, my first thought was to call on all my friends, but it didn’t occur to me at first that I could actually hire someone to help me. At least this time, it only took me about 24 hours to get past my block and think of it myself – I didn’t need someone to suggest it.

So, I’ve hired the college girl who lives across the street to come and help me take care of Sam and the house for the next month or so – probably about 15 hours a week. (I had already hired her to be my mommy’s helper when Leo and Zoe arrive and I still had a hard time realizing that I could do this.) I’m not sure exactly how it will work out, and I don’t yet know if I’ll be put on real bed rest or not, but no matter what, I need more help. I’ll probably still need some help from friends if I end up on bed rest (I certainly can’t afford to hire someone full-time), but I much prefer to be paying someone instead of taking “charity.” I know my friends would actually love to help, but beggars can’t be choosers, and when I’m paying someone I can rely on her coming at certain times, and to do certain things. That gives me so much more peace of mind. She starts tomorrow.