Monday, January 28, 2013

37 Weeks: Goal Met!

Here we are, on the eve of 37 weeks into this pregnancy! This is what I have hoped for from the beginning: full term for twins! I planned on working until they were born, however, my body had other plans. I have been really suffering with edema ( super swelling) from my knees down, most especially in my ankles and feet. Most pregnant women get swelling, and I totally had it with my previous pregnancies, but this is completely different. I've already bought new shoes in a bigger size so I wouldn't have to wear flip flops to work and to church, and they now no longer fit. I am down to my Reefs and my gray Puma's. I love both pairs of shoes, but now I can barely tie the Pumas :) If that were all, I would still be working. But I can't walk without being in pain. That really would be a problem for a hairstylist who has to be on her feet :) My midwife told me today that the only way I am going to get any relief is not just to put my feet up (trust me, I've been doing that!!!) but to get a good lymphatic massage and then stay horizontal for 48-72 hours. I have tried everything else on my own, to no avail. The good news in all of this is that I should probably stop working anyway and rest up for labor and also it means that one of the babies has dropped down into my pelvic area which is what is causing the blockage. So all in all it is a good thing; as soon as I'm not in pain :) When I wake up at night to go the bathroom (many, many times) my circulation is so poor that I can barely walk. Grrrrrrr!!!! I am looking forward to my massage today so hopefully some of this will be resolved.

I also know that the babies are coming soon. Soooo exciting!!! I'm looking at this as my body's way of telling me to slow down (so hard for me to do) and prepare to be a birth warrior! So sorry to my clients this week, but I'll see you as soon as I can.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Defining family

I come from what would be considered a "non-traditional" family.  My mother is half Mexican, haCaucasian. My father is about as Caucasian as they come. My mom got pregnant with me in high school and dropped out to get married and take care of me at the age of 17. Fortunately, they had lots of love and support from both sides of the family, most especially my Gaga and Papa. I didn't grow up with a lot of material things, but I never knew that :) I was always with family, aunts and uncles, cousins and grandparents. I was always surrounded by love. My parents divorced when I was 8 and my mom worked her ass off to take care of me since my dad really wasn't very involved. I always felt like she and I were a team; the two of us took care of each other. I remember getting up early with her and ironing her clothes for work while she cooked breakfast. I remember her leaving me a list of chores for the day that had BETTER be done by the time she got home. I remember her being at every. single. one. of my school activities and events, usually with snacks and treats for me and my team mates, and usually with at least one or two other family members. Everyone always knew when my family got there because my mom has the most ear-piercing whistle you have ever heard :) Cheerleading, basketball, tennis, softball, Honor Society- whatever it was, she was there. I am really thankful that my father and I have re-established our relationship since I became a parent, but for most of my life it was me and my mom taking on the world. Divorce is never easy, but it was my reality and I never felt as though I had less than someone who had their parents still together. Every family is different and I have always felt blessed to be so totally surrounded by love and support my entire life. A huge part of who I am is due to my family.
One of the coolest aspects of this journey has been how my children have handled it. People ask all the time what Stella and Roy think of this adventure. My answer is always the same: they are handling it like pros. See, the thing is, kids don't know that a situation like ours is unusual or not the norm unless someone tells them that. It isn't unusual for them because they are loving, innocent, accepting little creatures. It isn't strange that mommy is helping someone else become a mommy and daddy. It isn't weird for them that there are babies in my tummy, because that is one of the things mommies do: grow babies in their belly. It isn't odd for them that the parents of these babies are Nigerian; why would that make a difference? They have plenty of friends who don't look like them, who are a different color or who speak a different language. In their minds, love is love, a good person is a good person. They have friends who have two mommies or who only have one parent. None of that is a big deal to them. That has been one of the goals Russell and I have had throughout this process: to teach them that families come in all shapes and sizes and are made in lots of different ways. In a world that is full of hate and violence and intolerance, I want them to know that there are some things more powerful than all of the negative they will encounter: love and family. If Russell and I can instill in them the confidence and self-awareness that will allow them to make good solid choices in life, the kindness to treat others fairly and the knowledge that family, biological or chosen, will always be there for them, then I will feel like a successful mother. How each person defines family may be different; I do not believe in only one approved version of what that word means. I have felt more love and support from my single mother than a lot of people who have both parents could even dream of. My wish for my children and the children I am carrying is that they always know the love of family.


I am hoping that the babies are listening to the psychic link we have and will hang out inside for another week :) That being said, I am well aware that they could be ready before then. I am not having any "symptoms" of labor, just feeling heavier and clumsier and getting tired more easily. I am supposed to be feeling those things, so it isn't bad, I'm just aware that my body is changing. I am super stoked to have made it this far, feeling this good, with twins :) My intuition is telling me that labor is coming SOON and so I now feel the need to be as prepared as I can be. My hospital bag is packed, the kids' bag is packed to stay at the sitter, my list of phone calls to make is posted, my birth ball is ready. Paperwork is done. Pedicure is done. Every time I shower, I'm shaving my legs. I know my midwife and doctor won't care, but it makes me feel prettier :) I clean the house daily ( not like that is any different than usual) so I will feel comfortable leaving on short notice, since I CANNOT leave my house if it is messy. I am envisioning the labor that I want and all the possible scenarios that could happen. I've stated before that I truly believe a huge part of labor is mental and I want to be ready for it. Until recently the babies were in the breech and transverse positions and I was doing everything I could to let myself trust that they would move into the proper positions when ready. My midwife suggested seeing a chiropractor who works with pregnant women to "open up" the pelvic area to encourage the babies to flip head down. She also suggested doing 40 pelvic tilts twice a day. I did both of those things and what do you know, both babies are now head down :) The three of us are a team, about to take a big journey together, and it is time to get prepared!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Gender Issues

Let me start this by saying, if you know my grandmother, do NOT mention this blog post to her!!! For real! I know other family members will read it, and that is fine, just not my Gaga :)

I have never been a Princess girl (as most of you know) nor have I ever been one to really support gender stereotypes. I was a tomboy growing up, playing with my male cousins, wrestling, playing sports, beating the crap out of kids who picked on my cousin Jay. I didn't wear makeup until I was 26, and my mom still laughs at the fact that I am a hairstylist now. It isn't that I'm opposed to feminine things, I just don't want anyone telling me what I can and can't do because I am female.
Now that I am a mother to a daughter and a son, I love seeing the differences between the two of them. Some are obviously learned behaviors and some of them are not :) Stella LOVES a twirly dress and has a few princess things (none of them from me ;) ) but she loves woodworking with Daddy, tools and superheroes. I love when she dresses up and wants to paint her nails, but I am really glad that our house isn't overrun with Barbies and Disney Princesses. I really believe that parents need to think about the messages behind the marketing that goes into "traditional" gender roles with toys. The book "Cinderella  Ate My Daughter" is a great sociological, not boring, exploration into this idea.
Then there is my Roy. He is such a dude it is ridiculous! He wants to beat things, smash things, throw things. He is a different superhero everyday, some that he makes up on his own. I think the only reason he isn't a total jock is because his father doesn't "do sports". That part of his education will be up to me! He LOVES helping Daddy work on the motorcycles or house projects. But oh my goodness, he loves for me to paint his nails :) I do not think that his playing dress up or admiring my outfit means anything about him or his possible sexuality.  He likes to speak in a falsetto voice and say "I'm a girl!" He will put on fairy wings in a heartbeat. And he is without a doubt, super duper attached to his mommy. He tells me  100 times a day that he loves me, kisses and snuggles with me all the time, only wants mommy to get him in the mornings and tuck him in at night. He is sooooo sensitive and will tell you so. He MUST hug friends hello and goodbye. I love that my kids are not too caught up in what is for "girls vs. boys", although they will occasionally say something along those lines.
I think it is my job to encourage them to have tons of creative, imaginative free play and let them express themselves however they want. I don't want to lock them into any particular role or heaven forbid for them to feel they cannot do something because of their gender. I think that by encouraging them to play how they want they will be more sure of who they are. I want to support whatever interests they have. I want my girl to play sports and my boy to bake (and they do!) And while I want them to be free to play with whatever they want, I also don't want any toys that I feel perpetuate a negative stereotype. Which means the Bratz doll that Stella received for Christmas was quickly "lost" since I don't think it is appropriate for my little girl to have a doll in leather booty shorts, platform stripper shoes and collagen injected lips with black lip liner. Fortunately, Stella had never even heard of that brand of doll and was more interested in the microphone stand that came with her so her other dolls could use it to "rock out". I would much rather own every Disney princess doll there is than to have my little girl play with a doll that looks like a hooker. ( But I also didn't want to hurt my grandmother's feelings by explaining this to her; she meant no harm and that discussion would NOT have gone well!)

Monday, January 7, 2013

Faith and Trust

Here we are, 34 weeks along. Looking back on it so far, it has been a journey consistently by two things: faith and trust. Part of the reason I decided to become a surrogate is because I trust my body and because I had faith that this would work. I knew it wouldn't be easy, but I just felt it in my bones that I was meant to do this. I believe our society has done a grave injustice to women in regards to how we view pregnancy and birth in general, and that injustice has been challenging our trust in our bodies and how they work and in shaking our faith in the power of women. Over the course of many decades we have gone from having pregnancy be a cause for celebration to a cause for worry. A cause of joy to a cause of fear. We used to ALL be attended by knowledgable women who loved and supported us during birth and now the vast majority of us are surrounded by machines that beep and scare us. We have traveled a path from believing pregnancy and childbirth are normal and progress on their own schedule to a place where doctors tell us our bodies aren't good enough, our labors aren't progressing quickly enough, we aren't strong enough. Our faith and our trust have been put to the test and I openly rebel against that along with an ever-increasing sisterhood of women who say we will take back this process and reestablish our power.

So a few weeks ago, I had an ultrasound that showed one baby was breech and the other was transverse. My doctor/midwife combo have both had to bring up the c-section option as a topic of discussion because it is within the realm of possibility.  In most cases in the birth world today, being this far along with twins who are not lined up in the most advantageous positions would call for a scheduled c-section. Some women don't even have the option of discussing this; they are just told their doctor won't "let them go" past a certain week and see what happens. Breech usually automatically equals c-section. Most ob-gyns aren't even taught how to do breech deliveries as they are considered too risky. Even though older doctors were taught how to do them routinely. Ask some older relatives and you may be surprised how many were breech babies or gave birth to breech babies as recently as the 40's and 50's. No more though.  There are also many different ways to help turn a breech baby but a lot of women aren't given those options either. So since my doctor is an ob/gyn, we did have to have a discussion about a c-section. I told him emphatically that I did not want one unless there was a danger to me or the babies, and that the parents feel the same way. We also talked about how we had weeks left until I was due and that at each ultrasound the babies were both in different positions, so they were still very active and not settled in to one position yet. He agreed with me but still had to let me know that the "recommended course of action" (yes he used air quotes) at this point was to at least schedule the surgery for 37 weeks. Even though he was not pushing the issue at all, and even advised me that he did a great breech delivery, I panicked inside. He was being very judicious and laying out all the options, but just the thought that a c-section was the standard course so far before my due date freaked me out.  We parted with the "wait and see" approach and both of us knew that we were on the same page with letting things happen on their own.

Then, because I was freaking out, I got on one of my birth community Facebook pages asking for advice on how to get little Miss transverse to turn. I got a couple of responses before my phone rang. It was my midwife, who point blank asked me what in the world I was doing freaking out on FB! She is a member of that group as well and she saw my post. I LOVE that she called me!!! Most ob/gyns would not have bothered. But she knew I was panicking and she called me out on it. Her words to me?? Trust in my body, trust in the babies to be in the right position when the time comes, trust her and my doctor to do everything possible to get the babies lined up right IF we needed to, trust that he did not want to do a c-section. Trust. I was in tears. She had said the magic word! She pretty much fussed at me (in a really nice way) and told me to let go of my control issues. She told me I had been so great through this whole pregnancy; why would I lose that faith now??

And this is why she is my midwife. Because she trusts me, my body, the babies; together we are a team and I am supported and surrounded by love.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

one vs. two

One of the most frequently asked questions during this pregnancy has been whether or not it is different carrying twins than it was carrying one baby. There have been some major differences, but probably not what you might expect. Here are the top 3 differences in my experiences. Keep in mind that every pregnancy is different for every woman, so my experience may be really different from your own or any other woman you have known.

1. Feeling two babies move inside you is WAY different than feeling one move.
These girls have stayed on opposite sides of my belly even though they have flipped all over in different positions the whole time. So I have been able to feel distinctly different types of movements from each baby. Talk about crazy!!! There is movement all the time. Baby A is much more chill than Baby B and I'm guessing that those traits will carry on after they are born.

2. The amount of food I've eaten and water I have drank has been insane.
Don't get me wrong, as any pregnant woman knows, pregnancy hunger is all-consuming. I love food when I'm NOT pregnant, so holy cow, eating while pregnant is intense. But carrying twins brought that to a whole new level. Following a specific diet for multiples made me feel a lot better about how much food I wanted; it was suggested that I take in about 3,000 calories a day. Not to mention 132 oz of water a day. ( A big risk factor for premature labor is dehydration). The amount of calories suggested tapers off during the last trimester, thank goodness. Eating that much was a full time job! And it couldn't be crappy food; I could eat a few Big Mac's and be done for the day, but the point was to eat good food.

3. My weight gain and how I'm carrying.
So you would think that I've gained a ton more weight since there are two babies in there, but I really haven't.  Actually, the amount of weight has been about the same. In fact, and don't hate me for this, I've gone down a pants size. And that is because I already had a bit of leftover baby weight and that went straight to the babies as they started growing. Bonus for me!!! So with this pregnancy, I am literally all belly. My face has not turned into moon-pie face (yet) and when I look at pictures from my past pregnancies, I look different.

So those are the big differences, otherwise, physically I feel the same. Obviously the emotional journey is different, but that is an entry for another day.