Thursday, January 30, 2014

Feel the burn

I always had in my head that I would be the person that ran through my entire pregnancy. That was the plan - there was no other option for me. So when I first became pregnant with twins and was told that I couldn't exercise because my pregnancy was "high risk," I was devastated. (Truthfully, I was so darn sick that I'm certain I wouldn't have exercised even if I could have.. But I would have liked the opportunity to choose for myself). I was working at a high school with special needs students - changing diapers, pushing wheelchairs etc. And I loved my job. But my doctor was worried about the amount of physical exertion I was going through, and so he put me on some restrictions. Major restrictions. Like the kind of restrictions that were so severe that I couldn't do my job. I couldn't stand for more than 10 minutes at a time. I couldn't lift more than 5 pounds. You get the idea - I basically became a couch potato for 12 weeks. It was horrible. They moved me to a temporary desk job at work, which I hated, but I was super grateful that my employers were so willing to work with me and give me something to do until I was able to go back to my regular work. When the 12 weeks were up and I was able to switch from our reproductive endocrinologist (more on that at a later time) to a regular OBGYN, I was finally told I could go back to regularly work and to light exercising. Hooray!

Getting back to work was wonderful. I had been so early in my pregnancy when I switched to the desk job that most of my coworkers had no idea why I'd had to change. Going back and announcing my pregnancy to the students and my coworkers was exciting. They were all so wonderful and supportive! Going back to exercising though.. That was another story. As an athlete you learn that it only takes three days of inactivity to start losing muscle, and at that point I hadn't been able to do anything but sit at a desk or on my couch for three months. Three months! Not to mention I was still puking my guts out multiple times a day. Oh yeah, and growing two babies. No big deal. Needless to say, my feeble attempts at working out at that point didn't last long. I pacified my conscience by considering my work as my exercise for the day. And it was! Until I was 28 weeks and I started having contractions. A lot of contractions. I had contractions about every 6 minutes from 28 weeks until I delivered. So I stopped working at that point and again tried to limit my physical activity. 

And then, of course, despite all the concerns about preterm labor, the weeks went on and on and I was still pregnant. I did ok until I was 36 weeks and still huge and uncomfortable. That's when, for the first time in my pregnancy, I started exercising. Forrest and I walked. And walked. And walked. I went to the mall on my own and walked. We lived on the top floor of our apartment building, so I would go outside and run up the stairs. I mean actually run. I did standing squats every day. I did lunges. I tried everything! And I made it all the way until 38 weeks, when they induced me.

I was extremely fortunate to avoid a C-section. I owe it all to my awesome doctor, who also happens to be my cousin. (Technically, my dad's cousin - either way, she's amazing). So since the delivery went so well, I recovered quite quickly. 4 weeks after the twins were born, I went on my first real run in nearly a year. It felt amazing and super awkward all at the same time. Those first few weeks I did some casual working out, trying to get back into shape. But I felt like I was progressing so slowly. Then at 6 weeks post birth, one of my friends invited me to go play soccer with her. I was excited, but hesitant. I hadn't played soccer in years and I knew how out of shape I was. But I decided to go and give it a try anyway. I kept telling myself that no matter how out of shape or how bad at soccer I was, I could run fast. I'd always been able to run fast. Even when I was out of shape. So I thought I was good. 

Ha! Ya right. Stepping out onto the field, seeing the ball zoom past me then turning to chase it.. I kept waiting to feel that adrenaline rush, the gears that click in your muscles and brain that tell you you're back. Back doing what you love and being great at it. But it never came. Instead, I took two steps toward the ball, tripped over my own feet and fell onto the turf. So embarrassing. I don't think there was even a person within 10 feet of me, so there was no disguising it as me being tripped by someone. Nope. I just had to face the fact that I didn't have much control of my body anymore. I honestly felt like a 13 year old that just grew 2 feet over the summer and hadn't quite gained control of their gangly limbs yet. That first game was awful. Just awful. I couldn't play for more than 3 minutes at a time without wheezing uncontrollably. I couldn't make the soccer ball go where I wanted it to go. But worst of all, I couldn't run fast. I was incapable of doing the one thing that I'd always been great at. The one thing that I knew I could do better than most. It was a shocking and even heartbreaking realization. I think I might have secretly shed a tear or two in the shower after the game that night.

Every game after that got better. Not a lot better, but a little bit every time. And I was at least having fun exercising and being around other people. I can't play soccer now because of Forrest's work schedule, but I do still try and run once or twice a week. And I have just started doing workout videos with my sisters once a week (they kick my butt and I'm always so sore after - but we have a blast!)

So no, I'm not in great shape. I'm not even sort of to the point I'd hoped I'd be 6 months after giving birth. But quite frankly, I'm ok with that. I'm ok with slowly working my way back into being able to run more than a few miles. It's ok!! Because I'd rather spend my time with my kids. And I'm alright with that. 

Week of Awesome

Every year at this time, my husband Forrest gets really busy at work. The craziness usually lasts from early January until the end of April. As an accountants wife, you just get used to not seeing your husband during those months. Busy season is hard on me, yes, but it is torture on Forrest. Last year his busy season lasted 6 months and he was working over 80 hours a week for most of that time. His first busy season, 2012, I decided to try and help him out by giving him something to look forward to. My plan originally was just for one night, but it quickly evolved into something much more fun. One entire week of a fun surprise every night. A Week of Awesome.

I started out by sending him a text message the Monday I was going to do it, telling him I had a surprise for him when he got home. That helped him get through the day. I made a poster with a hint as to what the activity was going to be and hung it on the door for him to see when he got home. Given that he was getting home usually after 11 PM, I designed the activities to be short but full of action so he could get enough sleep. Here are some of the activities that have been included in our previous Weeks of Awesome:

Spy Night - I used red yarn taped to the walls to make a maze of "motion sensors." The started right at the front door so he had to climb through them without touching the sensor to get to a treat in the kitchen. You know, like they do in the movies when they are trying to get to the diamond in the middle of the room but it's protected by laser beams :)
ESPN Zone - I set out workout clothes for us to change into and we played games on Wii Sports Resort. We played each game once and whoever won that game got a point. The winner got a back rub from the other person.
Mr. and Mrs. Smith - I got this idea from Pinterest. I bought two nerf guns and I hid in the bedroom with mine, all loaded when he got home. He walked in to see a note by his gun and ammo telling him to be prepared to defend himself. Then we battled it out with our nerf guns until we were completely exhausted.
Spa Night - I filled a basin with warm water, got some foot scrub and went to work giving him a foot massage while he told me about his day.
Night Under the Stars - I set up our tent in the living room and we made s'mores over the burners on the stove and fell asleep watching a movie on the air mattress in the tent.
Hide and Seek - I did this on a Friday since he got off a little earlier and we had more time. I made up a number-alphabet code using his favorite Harry Potter book and wrote a note using that code. I left the note in the book for him to decipher, and I left and went to the Cheesecake Factory (which is where the note told him to meet me). Once he got there we talked and laughed and indulged in delicious slices of heaven.
Indiana Jones Night - I set out his most safari like clothes (and I was dressed safari too) and we sat and watched a little bit of his favorite Indiana Jones movie. We couldn't watch the whole thing because it was so late, but even a little bit of it was fun!
Psych Night - We devoted this night to our favorite TV show, Psych, by eating pineapple and randomly selecting episodes from Netflix to watch. We picked with our eyes closed, then once the show started we had a competition to see who could name the episode the fastest. After we guessed it, we closed our eyes and started over again! (This only works because we've seen every episode more times than we could possibly count.. Time well spent!)
Double Trouble - we did this one when we were expecting the twins. We chewed double mint gum, watched some of those awesome double mint gum commercials from the 90's ("double the trouble, double the fun" - those commercials made me wish I were a twin so bad!) and finished off the night with the old version of The Parent Trap. 

Forrest has loved every activity and so have I! He gets so excited about Week of Awesome and I know it's become something he looks forward to every year to help breakup the monotony of busy season. It's quickly approaching time for Week of Awesome 2014 and I'm excited for him to see what's in store! (This year, since I finally live by some of my sisters, I'm doing a Sisters Edition of Week of Awesome. I'm super excited about that one too!) I'll be sure to post pictures and tell you all about this years' activities once we're finished!

I never tell him what week it's going to be, or what the activities are going to be. The mystery adds to the fun of it all :) Hooray for Week of Awesome!!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

When Hard Days Come

Most of the time, the twins sleep through the night. Usually 11-12 hours. Sometimes though, they wake up once. Or twice. Or three times. When that happens, it takes me back instantly to when they were just a few weeks old and waking up every 2-3 hours. At least now it only take 10 minutes to feed them and get them back in bed, where it used to take nearly an hour. But still.. When they have a rough night, I know that means the next day will be less than perfect. They're usually cranky in those days because they didn't sleep well, and so am I. 

So let's say one of those nights comes along, maybe it was last week. I wake up in the morning after a very short night and go in to begin the morning routine. As I'm changing diapers, I find hard little pebbles in Charlie's diaper :(. Boo constipation! So I'm massaging his tummy, trying to help him out a little. You'd think I'd put the diaper back on first, right? But I didn't. Chalk it up to the restless night. As I'm massaging, he probably pees on me first. That's a pretty common occurrence in this household. So I wipe it off as I continue to massage. And then it happens. The massage finally works.. Maybe a little too well. I suddenly find myself covered. And I mean covered. In Charlie's poop. Some people say little baby poop doesn't stink.. Well, try to remember that next time you're covered in warm runny poop that you just massaged out of your baby's bottom! I seriously just stare at him for a minute in disbelief. And then I start to laugh, because I honestly don't know what else to do. And it's a good thing I was laughing, too, because of course Caroline is laying right next to him, and given her knack for finding trouble, she rolls right into the big brown mess. I decide to take a picture and send it to my family so they can laugh - or groan - right along with me. You just have to love times like this :). 

A little later in the day comes one of those sweet moments when my sad, crying baby falls asleep in my arms from sheer exhaustion. Then as I go to put that beautiful sleeping child down for a nap, they let out a giant burp that is almost certainly accompanied by an incredible amount of spit up. And it's all down my front. So I laugh some more, because I don't know what else to do. And they I get cleaned up and remind myself not to bother getting dressed the next day, because it's just safer for my clothes to stay in the closet. 

By bedtime I think we have made it through the worst and it can only go up from here. So I get them in the tub, and get them washed and let them play in the water for a few extra minutes. Just before I take them out, the inevitable "poop in the bathtub" moment arrives. This time it was Caroline. And of course it's not even remotely solid, so it permeates the whole tub and both babies. So I take them out, one at a time, trying to get them quickly before they try to drink the water. I drain our slowest-draining-in-the-entire-world tub and then clean out the mess. Then I fill it up again, and go through the whole process of rewashing the littles.

By the time I get them both in bed and finally sink down into the couch, I probably feel completely exhausted. But as I reflect on the day and all the craziness that came along with it, I try my best to smile and to remember that these moments won't last forever. Before I know it my children will be all grown up and I know I will long to have another day with them as infants. Even if it was another day exactly like this. And so I laugh. And I smile. At least, I try to. And I remember how blessed I am. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

My Fair Child

Finding out you are pregnant is such a magical experience. You suddenly start planning your life - imagining what you little one will look like, wondering what activities they'll enjoy etc. You have in your mind all these ideals and everything, in your mind, will be perfect. As the pregnancy continues you get more and more anxious to meet your new little creation. And then the birth comes and at the end of it you are handed a perfect little bundle, straight from heaven (or in my case, two little bundles.) You never in a billion years would have imagined that your perfect little miracle could have any challenges or imperfections.

When Charlie was born, all the nurses exchanged "the look." None of them said anything, of course, and at the time I didn't really notice it. I was so wrapped up in the beauty of the moment. Holding him and his little sister tight, seeing their perfect little fingers and toes. I noticed his snowy white hair, of course, everybody did. But it wasn't until I saw his eyes that I thought something might be wrong. At birth, they had no pigment. None at all. They were red as could be. In certain lights they looked brown, but deep down I knew they were red and I knew what that meant. But I wasn't ready to admit it yet. We had various doctors tell us different things. Some said they wouldn't be concerned, that they'd seen plenty of babies with white hair. One doctor bluntly told us that there was absolutely no pigment and that he was certain our little boy had albinism. That was when he was 3 days old. I was heartbroken and when I left the office the waterworks began. Forrest helped calm me down and we decided that we would go see a geneticist. The geneticist gave us a lot of hope. She told us he looked happy and healthy and that if he did have albinism it was a very minor case since his eyes didn't scan back and forth (it's called nystagmus). She referred us to an ophthalmologist who said he thought it was albinism but he couldn't be certain yet. A few weeks after that appointment, the nystagmus began. It wasn't too bad at first, but it continually got worse. His eyes never held still - they were constantly scanning from one side to the other, never focusing on anything. Nothing happened for a few months, but as Charlie got older I began to notice a severe lack of visual response. He wouldn't look at me. He never made eye contact. He couldn't follow objects with his eyes. I knew it was bad, but I kept pushing the thoughts that something was really wrong out of my mind. Then at his 4 month checkup the pediatrician started asking questions. He was examining Charlie's eyes and Charlie wasn't responding to the light. He asked me if he ever responded to visual cues. I said no. Then the doctor started crying. That was unexpected. He told me to have hope, but in that moment as I started tearing up, I faced the reality for the first time. The reality that my perfect little boy might be blind. My sister had come to the appointment with me and she put her hand on my shoulder. I tried to keep it together through the rest of the appointment, but when I got home I cried and cried. For about 2 days. The pediatrician referred me to an ophthalmologist here in SLC and I made an appointment for as soon as we could get in (about a month later). One day during that month, Forrest and I were getting the kids in bed. We were holding them and singing to them. I had Charlie, and as I was singing, he looked up at me for the first time and made eye contact. It brought tears to my eyes, and when Forrest and I left the room he held me tight and we both reveled in the moment that we thought our child could see for the first time. As the days and weeks went by, he quickly began looking at bright colored toys, following things with his eyes, opening his mouth when I'd move a spoonful of food toward him, and reaching for objects. By the time his ophthalmology appointment arrived, I knew he could see, and that brought so much peace and joy to my heart. The ophthalmologist examined Charlie's eyes and then spoke the words that I was finally prepared to hear "There's no doubt he has albinism." I was surprised by how well I took it. And Forrest too. The odds of having albinism are 1 in 17,000. And our little boy is the one. That means that both Forrest and I carry that recessive gene, and that we have a 1 in 4 chance of having children with albinism. That part is shocking, but we were finally ready to admit it and to face it. The doctor answered our questions, told us that at the moment Charlie is legally blind (even though he can see, it's not very well) but that hopefully his vision will improve dramatically in the coming years. He wrote Charlie a prescription for some glasses that would help protect his eyes from light and that would correct his astigmatism, which is pretty severe.

After the appointment we went to the optical center where we spoke with the pediatric specialist to order his glasses. She brought up some concerns that I had never considered - namely, how Caroline would cope with Charlie wearing glasses. She suggested that when the twins get a little older and more aware, that Caroline will feel left out because she doesn't have glasses. And that we may get a pair of inexpensive child sunglasses and pop out the lenses for her to wear if she gets upset by it. I'd never thought about how his condition might affect her. The more immediate effects would be that I can no longer put my kids right next to each other on the ground to play, because Caroline would be constantly trying to grab the glasses. Which she does. It's been an adjustment, but the glasses do help Charlie a lot. He does pretty well with leaving them on, but every so often (usually when I leave the room) he pulls them off as quickly as he can. I try to get him to wear them all the time, like he's supposed to, but it's hard. I take them off when he gets tired because he gets really frustrated with them if he's trying to rub his eyes (which he does a lot when he's tired.) I take them off when I'm nursing because Caroline won't eat if she sees them. And I take them off for bath and naps. They get dirty so fast because he pulls them down and sucks on the lenses, so I feel like I'm constantly putting them on, taking them off and cleaning them. It's definitely the hardest on little Charlie but he is a really good sport about it most of the time.

It's been an emotional adjustment too, getting used to seeing our little boy wearing dark lenses. To never get to see his eyes. To accept the fact that he will likely wear glasses his entire life. And to think that he may never be able to drive a car. That he might struggle to read and might have to use a magnifying glass to do his school work. But when I get feeling particularly overwhelmed by it, I remind myself how grateful I am that he is healthy. And how thankful I am that I have him and his sister. They are truly little miracles and I love them with all of my heart.

A day in the life..

The most common question I get is people asking me how I do it. The short answer is, well I just do! I don't know any different since the twins are my first children. But just because I don't  know any different doesn't mean it's been easy. Seriously, the first five weeks were just a blur of sleepless nights, dirty diapers and endless nursing. Yes I am breast feeding my twins. Both of them. At the same time. Nursing was the part I was most nervous about. I wanted to try it but I wasn't confident that I would be able to successfully feed two babies ever, let alone do it for nearly 6 months. But here we are 5 1/2 months after they were born still nursing away. The trick is getting a good pillow (I use the My BreastFriend Twin nursing pillow) and holding them both in football position. It took a lot of getting used to but in my opinion there is no other way to do it. It saves so much time. So much. 

In the beginning, the babes were on different schedules. And that was hard. My husband, Forrest, and I worked so hard to get them sleeping and eating at the same time. Yes, that meant that we constantly had to wake up sleeping babies so they could eat at the same time. Which also meant that we would go entire nights sleeping less that 2 hours total. I remember just praying for morning to come. Thinking "just wait until the sun is up - I can last until then." Then 4 AM would hit and I'd feel a major sense of accomplishment and relief at having made it through another night. I remember thinking how easy it would be if we only had one. Which I know is not true - having a new baby in the house is hard regardless of how many of them there are. And then when they were 5 weeks old we moved from Southern California to Salt Lake City. We finally had two bedrooms so we immediately moved them into their own room. And then they started sleeping. And we started sleeping. The first night they both slept for 6 hours straight was one of the best nights ever. I thought it was a fluke, but they kept doing it. Then at 8 weeks they started sleeping for 8 hours straight and taking good naps during the day. That was when I started feeling like a normal person again.

Now they are great - mostly. Of course we have our bad days and rough nights, but generally speaking my babies are really happy and content and are excellent sleepers. Thank goodness! They wake up in the morning and play happily in their cribs until I go get them out to eat. (They sleep in different cribs. When they were little I sometimes put them in the same bassinet/crib but they just wiggle way too much now.) I usually pick up Charlie first because he is a little fussier in the mornings. He gets really excited and smiles until I lay him down on the ground to get Caroline. Then he cries. Hard. Caroline smiles and reaches her arms up for me and snuggles with me while I carry her to her brother. I put her on the ground next to him where they play while I'm getting set up to feed them. I clip my nursing pillow around my waist and sit down Indian style on the ground against the wall. Then I pick them up one at a time and lay them down on the pillow to eat. Even if Charlie has been crying hard, he always laughs when I do this because I swing him forward before putting him onto the pillow. It's his favorite. While they eat, their bottom hands meet in the middle in front of my chest. Caroline usually grabs on to my shirt and Charlie puts his hand on top of hers. Sometimes it's the other way around, but either way they are always holding hands. It melts my heart! If they ever take a break from holding hands, it's usually to pull the others' hair or ears or to poke their face. They are so curious about one another! I love to see how much they love each other. After they eat I change diapers and get them dressed, then carry them into the kitchen to eat their breakfast. When they were smaller I could easily I pick them up and carry them both, but now I do one at a time into their high chairs. I just use one bowl and one spoon and sit in front of their high chairs and feed them every other bite. (Truthfully, it's usually two bites to Charlie then one bite to Caroline. Unless it's peas, then it's the exact opposite!) They play in their chairs while I eat breakfast, then we play in the living room until nap time.

The day goes on about like that until bedtime. Forrest is an accountant, so he works a lot this time of year and doesn't usually get home until after the kids are in bed. So I do bath time and bedtime alone. It was hard at first, but it's getting easier. I bathe them at the same time, I just put their heads next to each other in the middle so they lay with their legs in the opposite direction. That way they don't kick and splash each other as much. After bath they eat, we read a story and sing a song and then are in bed.

It's really not that hard, taking care of them both. Most days I love it 100%. Of course there are hard days, like I said, but I try to forget about those :). The hardest part is that sometimes they just have to cry. If they are both sad, I can only deal with one at a time so the other just cries. Of course I don't like it, but there's not really another option. The second hardest part is carrying them to and from the car. They are getting really big and heavy and I'm building a lot of muscle carrying two car seats at once! Not easy, but it's still doable. 

Well there you go, that's how I do it! A little disclaimer: I have an amazing husband who is so helpful and who is so good with our kids. I couldn't do it without him. I also have wonderful sisters, parents and in-laws who live nearby and who are so extremely helpful. Also could not do it without them! And  I have the most darling children in the world that make it all worth it :)