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Baby Sunshine from Postpartum Blues

This must be a couple days after I gave birth. I'm apparently off bed rest and taking a quiet moment as Baby Girl sleeps nearby.

This must be a couple days after I gave birth. I’m apparently off bed rest and taking a quiet moment as Baby Girl sleeps nearby. I didn’t know Big Daddy took this photo until recently.

Even though I’m exhausted, this weekend couldn’t have been better. C&C seemed to have had a wonderful time at the play café on their actual birthday, and Sunday’s gathering of friends was just beautiful. It even ended with our place nearly spotless.

And yet the awesomeness that God has allowed in my life continues. Big Daddy, who normally takes the night shift with the babies, is doing a sleep study (apparently with all the comforts of a fancy hotel). I told him I was jealous. But despite my error in blasting my latest guilty-pleasure song in the car after dropping him off, both babies are still fast asleep from the ride. I’ve gotten to use the bathroom without rushing, I washed and moisturized my face, put on pajamas and ate a birthday cupcake with both hands. Forget pedicures and massages; these are the new luxuries of life after you become a mother.

And for me, it’s about doggone time.

I’m past it chronologically but finally facing it emotionally to a point where I’m able to say (and write) it: The first few days (months) postpartum sucked. Royally sucked. (Exhale) The details are endless, but the broad strokes are enough to paint the picture.

1) I gave birth via C-section in the 29th hour of labor, having progressed to barely 3 cm and finally developing preeclampsia. My blood pressure was already dangerously high — systolic and diastolic at this point — despite meds, and the magnesium sulfate made me feel more nauseated than I had my whole pregnancy. Granted, all the juice I’d nicely convinced the nurses to let me have through the day didn’t help. As much as I’d wanted a vaginal delivery, I was so sick and still itchy from PUPPPs that I’d decided the sooner I could deliver the better. And this was despite not paying any previous attention to anything anybody said about being prepared for a C-section just in case. Mistake, BTW.

2) So, like, baby or no baby, it’s major surgery to be sliced open and sewn back up again. So much so that they tested the effectiveness of my epidural before wheeling me to the OR. They did it by placing ice on each thigh. That’s how we all realized that the contraction pain I felt during labor wasn’t pressure. That was actually pain. Twenty-nine hours. Pain. Contractions. Epidural working only on my left side. Cue a second epidural in the bright, cold operating room for major abdominal surgery, which requires major recovery. For me, that meant hours in the recovery room with a still-high BP needing extra delaudid plus a spinal block that I could barely consent to. Whatever was happening — I was in and out — had Big Daddy angrily bargaining with God for my life. But there was more than my life to consider …

3) Baby girl was just fine; baby boy, born at 4 lbs., was whisked away without me being able to see him. Except for about 5 minutes before I was moved to my hospital room around 4 a.m., I didn’t see him again for a couple days. I was on bed rest with a pain pump and a catheter. Knowing that your child in intensive care and that you can’t see him is torture. It’s worse when you still have another child to care for and no idea what you’re doing. I thought it would be great when we’d all be home and family would come to visit …

4) In short, family came, and it didn’t go well. On three separate visits, the number of diapers changed by people who showed up equals zero. I should’ve taken the hint from the first phone call I accidentally took thinking it was Big Daddy the day after coming home with only Baby Girl. From delivery on, I wasn’t answering calls; I wasn’t making calls. I was sending messages through my husband, and most people seemed OK with that. Most people, except my mother-in-law. She holds this, among other things of which I’ve lost count, against me. Our first full day at home, Big Daddy had just talked with her, mentioning that he was en route to Baby Boy, still in the NICU. She ended that call and promptly call our home number. Her first question to me, verbatim: “So, how does it feel to have one baby home and the other still in the hospital?” I can’t remember how long it was before I answered the phone after that.

5) Already unsupported at the most basic level, I was also alone in figuring out the whole breastfeeding thing. I learned some things the hard way with occasional input at my pediatrician’s office, but being in a community of formula feeders — and family members who would put words to the babies’ cries “Mommy, please give me a bottle” — made it a difficult road. But, 12 months in, we’re still going strong. Now, I have to figure out this weaning thing. Like everything else, it’s all a cycle of trial and triumph.

So much craziness happened in addition to the normal chaos of a shiny new set of twins that’s hard to believe it was only within the past 12 months. And even though I hear the beginning cries of somebody waking up, I’m grateful to report, after a series of storms, relative calm.

As it was before, feel free to ask questions about anything. I’ll answer them via the same way you ask. — mbe

 

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Happy Birthday, Babies!

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Here’s Baby Girl and Baby Boy at four days old. She was dressed to go home with us, while he stayed in the NICU for a few more days.

I’m not one for spoilers, but even in the midst of my retrospectives, it’d be weird not to acknowledge that our miracle babies are a year old today. I’m so excited that I don’t know what to do with myself. We’ve gone from “Are we pregnant?” to “We’re actually pregnant” to “We’ve got two kids?” to “Hey, we’ve got two kids.” And, we owe it all to the Almighty God.

As irreverent as I can be, I cannot deny the power and presence of God even in our struggle to become parents and to be our best as parents in the face of familial estrangement and, frankly, some foul behavior directed our way that would make life hard for anybody — not just new parents. So as we celebrate the lives of our twins, we celebrate the Life Giver above all. We’ve got a low-key party planned today for the four of us at a play café before the Mr. — now known as Big Daddy (chosen from Blanche’s dad on “Golden Girls”) — goes to work.

You can celebrate with us, if you want, by praying prayers of thanksgiving at 8:59 and 9 p.m. for the babies’ journey to us. As a recap, we prayed, fasted twice for 21 days, enlisted others to pray and endured two years of trying with three IUIs, a canceled IUI cycle and one successful IVF. Many people suffer so much more than we did. My heart remains heavy for them. I don’t know what their next steps will be in the quest to bear children, but I do know that regardless of what He does, God is still able.

Now, let’s go eat cake!

 
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Posted by on August 14, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Labor Day, Revisited

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This was one of the great nurses we had. She was gracious in allowing us to take her picture. Of course, I can’t remember her name.

I had grand plans of what to write next, but the birthday baby girl must realize it’s her holiday; she’s wide awake and keeps breaking my concentration. Gone are the days I could nurse her and her brother to automatic sedation. And it seems the more alert either child is, the sleepier I am. Had I known sleep would be so hard to come by, I would’ve taken my OB’s advice a year ago tonight. “Sleep as much as  possible.”

Dr. Katz was fortunately on call into the evening that I was induced with near-200 systolic. My diastolic was hovering around 100 as well. A big deal, a high BP was still my only medical concern. We’d still planned a vaginal delivery with all the drugs available. She said I needed the rest in order to push. My doctor has a record of delivering 75 percent of her patients, so I was hoping I’d have a familiar face at delivery. By this point though, I’d been laboring for more than 12 hours and hadn’t dilated beyond a couple centimeters. I was still battling PUPPPs, which no one seemed to know anything about. With a little research, someone could’ve warned me that an epidural would intensify the itching and bring out the caricature of hysterical pregnant woman. My body was on fire. I cried, screamed and could’ve yanked every needle out of my arms as a reaction to the meds flooding my veins. It was ugly. That moment was the worst part of labor, despite being able to feel my contractions because my epidural only worked on one side. Of course, I didn’t know that at the time.

Me: “Whoa! I can feel that!”

Nurses/anesthesiologists/medical professionals: “That’s just pressure.”

Me (who knew nothin’ about birthin’ no babies): “Oh (clenched teeth). OK.”

It was my doctor’s constant presence — I’m sure she was cursing out folks on my behalf — that had, not one, but two anesthesiologists mixing pain cocktails to ease the “pressure” in a way that kept me from scratching the skin off my stomach and legs. Their choice, I was told, could help the itching but would lessen the effect. I said I’d rather be in pain.

And I was in pain at regular intervals throughout the night with little progress. My blood pressure remained elevated, I wasn’t allowed to eat, and I was stuck in position on my left side because they feared losing a read on the boy’s heart rate. If I turned just a little bit and the monitor shifted, a seeming first-year nurse would run in in a panic and add more goop that would add to my itchiness as well as its rhyming description. I hadn’t mentioned that I’d once worked in a hospital, but the first-year picked up on it and put it in her report (complained) to the next nurse, who was a lot less sloppy in her care. Or maybe it was morning, home to the first-stringers and people with seniority who know what they’re doing.

The morning of Aug. 14th came and went. By noon, I was still in labor with regular contractions that would wake me up if I dared fall asleep. “A Baby Story,” where the kid is born in an hour between commercials, this was not.

 
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Posted by on August 14, 2013 in Labor, Pregnancy

 

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Get! Out! Mah! Belly!

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I’m 37 weeks pregnant here, visiting my choir friends in the church basement. My brother is clearly amazed at how big I am. Looking back, so am I.

This time last year, I was so remarkably uncomfortable. I was a massive 186 pounds on 5’2″ frame at exactly 38 weeks pregnant with the horrible itchy PUPPPs rash across my stomach and legs. I’d essentially lost my job for being pregnant but had quit on my own with Aug. 13, 2012, being the first day of my vacation before the end of my employment. That allowed the peace of mind to have insurance still covering delivery whenever it happened, though I knew it would be within the month.

With the threat of losing the babies and the journey through infertility to get to this point always in mind, I’d stayed ridiculously hydrated through a hot Chicago summer and only had two pre-term scares. The first, at nearly 32 weeks on a Sunday, watching “Sunday Best,” I had a series of contractions that also squeezed my head. Four an hour was bad; I’d had six, seven, eight and was on the phone with the hospital. I wasn’t in labor; apparently, that was the nature of being pregnant with twins. I sang with my church choir through my eighth month, finally giving up after a month of promoting our CD release. Two Sundays after a Saturday afternoon funeral and backing Aretha Franklin that night, I thought my water broke and left the choir loft mid-service. The embarrassment of people watching me tip out while the pastor was preparing to preach was enough for me have several seats for a while. Or maybe it was the shame of explaining that, no, my water didn’t break and that I’d most likely peed on myself.

I was at the hospital every Monday the last six weeks for a non-stress test, measuring the babies heart beats in response to my regular but normal contractions. And because my blood pressure rose a little higher each visit, a nurse would always say I might deliver that day. But every time, they’d send my uncomfortable big butt home to keep the babies cooking. The Monday a year ago, I felt guilty for wanting these babies out, mainly to be able to breathe normally, to see my feet, to stop hugging the Mr. only from the side and to stop that junky itch from the rash. My blood pressure was 190/89. Even though I was not pre-eclamptic (yet), I was admitted and scheduled to have the babies that day.

I’m hoping in finally recounting the last days of pregnancy, labor, delivery and ultimately motherhood, you’ll forgive my long delay in writing anything at all. The twins are great as they approach a year old tomorrow, and I’m feeling good and confident that I can keep them alive. It wasn’t always that way. I’ve got dark days to shed light on by retelling the story. And what a tale it is.

In short, it’s like the VH-1 “Diary” tag line: You think you know, but you have no idea. Stay tuned.

 
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Posted by on August 13, 2013 in Pregnancy

 

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Reflections of the Way Things Used to Be

Last year this time, I was in New York with a fresh needle wound from the first shot of my in-vitro fertilization cycle. I was trying to be thankful for a wonderful husband, a promising job that fit my talents and general happiness with life despite the ache of not yet being pregnant and having to endure IVF at all. That was a difficult balance. It was even worse to battle such inner turmoil while wearing the permanent smile-face of holidays with in-laws who didn’t know or necessarily understand anything about me or anything I might be feeling. Empathy from outside of the infertility circle is hard to come by even after the explanations of why and how.

But. I. Survived.

And I came out with a story to tell happily ending with a real live Rufus and Reefus, born exactly three months, two weeks and three days ago. Even as I listen to them sleep in their cribs (for only the third freaking day ever FINALLY), it’s unbelievable that they actually exist way beyond a couple groups of dividing cells, a collection of heartbeats captured in a whirlwind doctor’s visit or even the invisible sources of discomfort in the late hours of labor. Ready or not (with emphasis on the NOT), they’re here.

Their presence means:

– I’m up at 5:43 a.m., having just nursed the boy for the third time this hour with him now wanting to play. (Grrr, boy, go to sleep!)

– I contemplate daily cutting my hair to a low fade to avoid looking a hot mess. (My stylist’s feelings will be so hurt.)

– I haven’t slept more than four hours at a time since a week before I delivered. (I’m done with the “I’m tired” complaints of my childless friends, BTW.)

– I ate Thanksgiving dinner with a baby on my lap, having cooked a minimal spread with another on my hip.

– I’m incredibly isolated from the civilized world most days and evenings and often lonely because of my husband’s work hours.

– This is life as I now know it with no end in sight.

Yet this year, even with all of that, I’m not superficially thankful with a veneer over the potentially heavy burdens of new motherhood. Instead, I’m overwhelmingly humble for the greatest gifts since salvation and welcoming of the collective discomforts that my babies bring. I can’t say I don’t complain — I do because, well, this crap is hard — but the comfort of this new family is greater than the discomfort of feeling it would never happen. This is true every day all day with baby giggles, smiles and developmental skills that put icing on the cake (which I can eat worry-free with the calorie burning of nursing). And I’m nothing but thankful for that. I’m also thankful for the smallest hope that led me to this point, the prayers of the people around me, those who remain to share in our children’s lives and to God, who made it all possible.

Recognizing that things didn’t have to work out in my favor has made every day with the twins a day of thanksgiving, regardless of what the calendar says. To those whose struggle continues, try to know that my heart is with you. Happy Thanksgiving (give or take four or five days. Sue me; I’ve got twins).

 

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Unbelievable!

I know it’s been a while. I think in my last post before the tribute to my mother, I felt whiny because my pregnancy woes were all I could focus on. It just seemed unfair to complain after the struggle to get to that point. I may revisit those final months at some point with a fresh perspective.

The “when” of that is uncertain given that it’s finally official: I’m a mother. It’s been six weeks and a day and putting that phrase in writing has me tearing up a little. It’s either that or the fact that it’s 4:14 a.m. and I have Pootie Booty #1 sleeping across my lap and #2 in his baby rocker and it should be Big Daddy — formerly known as the Mr. — on baby duty, not me. Or it could be constipation and freezing from a couple night sweats in the past three hours. I’ll stop there to avoid getting ahead of myself with the postpartum joys.

Just know that the boy-and-girl twins are here and that My Brown Eggs is back — still with infertility as its foundation, happily adding the success of assisted reproductive technology and motherhood! That was the goal, right? And that’s where we are, praise God. And given that I had to quit my job (no maternity leave), that’s all I have to talk about.

Right now, though, it’s sleepy time. Let’s hope it lasts.

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Ellen’s Magnificat

This is my mother in her 20s. We definitely looked alike. They didn’t call me “little mama Brown” for nothing.

I’ve been gone a long time, long enough to almost skip my second trimester. I am, praise God, still pregnant and healthily so. Even my mood is in a better place.

But before I get too deep in the details of the past two and a half months, I have to acknowledge what it means to me to be pregnant today — May 3. Having only recently accepted that I’m going to be a mom, I did it just in time for my late mother’s birthday. She would have been 70.

Five years ago, coincidentally a month before she died, I’d written “The Year Mother’s Day Mattered” as a brief reflection on what life was like with my mother and in preparation for her passing. No one predicted she would die, but I just knew it was inevitable. I also knew then somehow that I’d likely have trouble having children — either because I’d remain single forever or because I would have inherited my mother’s ovarian cancer.

In 2007, I wrote:

“We tended to celebrate her birthday in an equally understated way, which is always a week a half before Mother’s Day. She usually counted May 3 as two-fold. Three years ago [2004], I made dinner at my apartment. She teased me, calling me uppity for having hors d’oeurves – vegetables I cut myself, made me overcook my tender porterhouses because of the pink and turned her nose up at the portabella mushrooms. I think she even asked for steak sauce. Another year, I took her out to one of my favorite Charlotte restaurants, where the service was unfortunately awful. I guess the server forgot that black people still carried green money. It sucked to be him: I left a dollar tip and gave the rest of the 20 percent to the manager. My mother, meanwhile, braced herself and chastised me in advance of me cursing the poor guy. I didn’t, but she’d already worked my nerves. …

“The woman who produced me was not the mother of poems read aloud. She wasn’t one who you’d turn over to your best friend as Jesus did Mary. I was incensed that the pastor even preached that [as a Mother’s Day sermon]. She wasn’t even Big Mama or Madea, who cooked for the grandkids and maybe she wouldn’t ever be. My mother was at home dying slowly. … I’m sorry that this is the year Mother’s Day matters and that it matters for the wrong reasons.”

The wrong reasons included my rush to appreciate my mother before she would die, fear that motherhood would escape me, and premature nostalgia for the mom I didn’t have. It’s amazing, though, how life uses time to right it own wrongs. I couldn’t have predicted the kinship with my mother that I’d feel just by carrying twins as she did. Nor could I have predicted the peace in our desire to have children contrasted with her initial dread of having us. Mothering from a dark place, she still wanted our lives to be different from hers in the best way possible. I’ll forever be sad that she’s gone, but I’m happy knowing that my happiness in life is what she desired most.

Happy birthday, old woman.

 
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Posted by on May 3, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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