Groundhog Day

~Tiffany

We mentioned this in our last post, but our days are blending. We define them in relation to their place in the gestation week. We were 34 weeks and 1 day when we entered the hospital. That seems so long ago now. We’re 35 and 4 now and just a couple of days from meeting our son and daughter. 

This is what our days have been like: at 4am, we get woken up by the nurse assistant to take Aly’s vitals and any labs that have been ordered by the doctors. This either starts our day or we’re able to get a few more hours of sleep afterwards. The deciding factor is where Aly’s blood pressure is, the approach and experience with the nurse assistant, and whether either of these things are going to set off some anxiety for us. There have been quite a few days that have started at 4 am since we’ve been here. The nurse assistant leaves, not knowing what her visit has left behind and then for about 3 hours, we either soothe our anxieties by talking, speculating about what the doctors will think of the vitals, or watching TV. If the blood pressure reading or experience isn’t bad, I crawl into Aly’s bed and we try to squeeze a couple more hours of sleep before shift change inevitably wakes us up at just before 7am. We listen along as they review again Aly’s medical history during something they call, “bedside.” A few quick questions and a couple of notes about their contact info and the nurses are out the door.

We’re awake now and our day is “officially” started. I have time here to order breakfast for us, help Aly get her slippers on before making what I’m sure is her 4th trip to the restroom, because twins, and get us set up for the dining people to be able to drop the trays off. Some time between the pee and the food getting there, the new nurse assistant comes in to introduce herself and take the next set of vitals, on which we focus and pray. After eating, we have about an hour to relax before the nurse comes back in to hook the babies up to the monitor for their non stress test. The name has been really ironic to me since we got here. We’ve done nothing but stress about it. A couple of the nurses have explained to us that in a 20 minute period, what they’re looking for is 2, 15 by 15 “accels,” or, accelerations in their heart rates. So, we do everything we can to get them to pass. We play an eclectic playlist, we tap Aly’s tummy, we talk to them and implore them to “move for mommies.” We try everything in hopes that 20 minutes will be enough for them to pass, because otherwise, they have another 25 minutes before the nurse puts in an order for ultrasound to come and do a biophysical profile to make sure they’re ok. And this is not stressful at all, when one or both of your babies aren’t moving in 20-45 minutes. 

Depending on whether a biophysical profile is necessary or not, we usually see the high risk (maternal fetal medicine) doctors around 10ish. My frustration with them is ongoing because I failed to go to medical school to know what they know and, therefore, as a layperson and the wife of their patient, need them to be more personable and sometimes I wonder if there is anything they could actually say to make me feel better about this situation. Thinking about it now and writing it, it’s probably me, not them. Ugh. Anyway, they leave, after providing, at least me, little comfort, the nurse comes in to give Aly her morning meds and any IV infusions that are necessary, take a listen to her heart and lungs, and ask if there’s anything else we need. We then take showers and at around noon, we order lunch, the nurse assistant comes back in to take vitals and with bated breath we wait again for the blood pressure reading and either take a collective exhale or hold our breaths for a second longer while we figure out whether the reading will have implications. You see, the machine beeps if there’s an alarming number on the screen. I’m sure it’s helpful for them, but it certainly isn’t for us. It just makes us feel that we have something to stress about.

Our food comes about an hour after we order it and this is probably our most calm period of the day. If we haven’t already seen the on call OB/GYN from our regular practice, they usually stop by around this time. They’ve been our demystifiers. Our decoders. Our beacons in this storm, if you will. Anytime the MFM docs say something that make us ask questions, the doctors from our practice have been able to answer them in a way that calms us and educates us, so that we’re not spinning our anxiety wheels. Once they leave, we usually breathe easier and take a nap or keep watching either the food network, HGTV, or currently, “Sister Wives.” We’ve got until the 4 pm vitals before we’re really visited again by anyone. We take these vitals with a grain of salt because our OB/GYN has calmed us about everything for the day. Despite our anxieties, the doctors have assured us that Aly’s blood pressures are in an acceptable range and none have required medical intervention. Sometime between the 4pm vitals and the 7pm shift change, we order dinner. We go through “bedside” again and once they leave, our food is normally coming in. 

At 8pm, we have our next set of vitals. The nurse gives us time before popping back in and at around 9-9:30 she hooks the babies up for their second and final non stress test of the day. All the nurses are amused that we know where they are and how to position the sensors best to find the heartbeats. It’s not like we’ve been here over a week or anything. But we’re good humored about it. Again, we plead with the latkes to move enough to pass so that they, “don’t stress mommies out.” 

Assuming they pass, we’ve got nighttime meds soon after and at around 11:30pm we’re visited again by the nurse assistant on shift assigned to us to do our last set of vitals for the day.

Somewhere in the middle of all of that, Aly has peed about 10 times, I’ve added several layers of clothing and we’ve found time to update as many people as possible on whatever has or could change. 

We’re just a couple of days out now. I feel the babies in Aly’s tummy all the time and I feel like I can already see them in my mind’s eye. We’ve talked about it, and this will all be worth it. The stress, the constant change of plans, the guessing, the second guessing, the bruises from the  injections, the times we’ve had to advocate for ourselves to make sure we had a voice. We will have done all of it for our latkes because we love them so much already. Aly is napping while I write this but I’ve barely been able to sleep these past couple of days. I’m so grateful she has. My brain doesn’t stop in this situation. It’s constantly running and I’m constantly thinking about what the next reading is going to be and whether Aly is looking like she feels ok or if there’s anything more I could be doing. 

I take solace in my quiet moments of just observing her, when she’s just resting, and she’s rubbing her tummy as she’s taken to doing since the very beginning, and that seems to be growing everyday. I like to think she’s been letting them know that we’re here and we’re waiting for them and love them like crazy. I think they know it too. They certainly will once they make their grand entrance. Until then, we’ve been fantasizing about what they’re going to look like. The running joke is that they’re actually red heads. Lol. Aly is convinced that Bella looks like an angry bubbe (short, chunky, and grumpy) even though she hasn’t let us get a good look at her at all. This all stems from her posing like Rosie the Riveter during two ultrasounds, we’re pretty sure she has a double chin, and they reacted to “Hava Nagila” during one of the non stress tests, so they’re definitely connected to their roots. But as far as we know, they’ve only gotten my music taste through osmosis by virtue of my presence/proximity, not my hair color. 

Tomorrow, we’re 35 and 5. I’m so amazed at Aly that she’s done this. I’m grateful to her in a way that I can never express because I have had the privilege to witness most of it as an unintended blessing associated with COVID quarantine. I’m so freaking proud of her. I admire her strength and resilience and perseverance when this journey has gotten really hard. We’ve always done things together, but she deserves the recognition for doing this thing. This growing two humans thing and carrying them for what is considered full term for twins. I love her more everyday of this journey. I’m so blessed to be growing the Albrecht Household with her. We’re a little silly and a lot crazy, but our latkes are gonna love it.

Crisping Up The Edges

~Tiffany

The official diagnosis is preeclampsia. That diagnosis carries with it the weight of a spectrum that goes from mild to severe and a patient can fall anywhere in between. What it seems like at this point, is that Aly is in between. The interesting thing about this disease is that even though she’s carrying two babies, the diagnosis is hers alone and the only way to cure it, is to get them out. The catch is that our latkes are only 34 weeks and 3 days today, which means they’re not technically done yet. They’re not quite the golden brown a latke needs to be before it’s ready to be taken out.

So, what do we do? Well here’s the deal. Only one test is indicating preeclampsia because in all other ways, she is stable, including her blood pressure that originally wasn’t. Labs are good, organs are good, but that one test is definitely out of range, so nothing really is matching up. With these circumstances, the doctors have empowered us to make the decision on whether to induce now or sometime in the future, unless such circumstances present themselves that would necessitate the decision to be placed back into their hands, such as labs and vitals no longer looking stable.

Here’s what we’ve decided: for the next few days at least, we’re going to let the babies get a few more days of growth under their belts. We’re letting them crisp around the edges, so to speak. Lol.

Because Aly is being so closely monitored, and doesn’t seem, at this point, to have any additional preeclampsia symptoms, we’re holding off until at least 35 weeks, which is Monday. This is the point when the high risk doctors have told us the babies might not have any NICU time.

It feels like we’re on a tightrope. We’re walking the line and balancing between what Aly’s health indications are at any given moment and making sure that neither she, nor the babies, are at risk for being in distress.

This isn’t the way we expected to spend our last days as a married couple without children. In a hospital room, eating mediocre hospital food, with a constant rotation of, albeit excellent nurses and doctors, and what feels like an amorphous plan about the birth of our latkes. I certainly didn’t expect to be so scared and stressed. For all intents and purposes, our pregnancy has been relatively smooth and Aly hadn’t shown any indication that she would be preeclamptic. In the past 3 days, we’ve adjusted not just our expectations, but our birth plan.This birth plan we felt as prepared as you could be for. And one that seems in the really distant past now.

Days are melding into nights and time is measured by when Aly’s vitals are going to be taken, when shift change for the nurses will take place, and when the babies will have their non stress tests. We’re masked and we’re stressed sometimes, but then we calm each other down and a sense of peace overcomes us when we think about the fact that we’ll meet our son and daughter soon. We didn’t expect it to be this way, but we’re grateful to be monitored. We know that we’re not leaving here until Aly delivers our latkes. So, I’ll be a mama soon and Aly will be a mommy. That’s overwhelming and exciting and terrifying when I think about that we’re only at 34 weeks and 3 days, but I know they won’t come until we’re all ready because I know God will bring us all together at the exact right time.

On a lighter note, The Albrecht Household is experiencing severe temperatures. We’re three days into our stay and I’m sleeping in jackets, sweatpants and three blankets while Aly snoozes barely covered by a sheet and asks me to turn the thermostat down.

We’re praying for at least a few more days of this unknown, which seems strange but the right thing to do under the circumstances. And we’re grateful for the care we’re receiving even though we have to do things like wear a mask. We can’t thank everyone enough for keeping us in thoughts and prayers. We’re still cooking these latkes but we’ll be a party of 4 sooner than we planned.

Fat Kid Goggles

~Aly

Throwback and Rewind

Growing up, I had lots of friends from all different types of cliques. I was smart and high-achieving, which landed me with a group of friends at school that were perfectionistic intellectuals. I was also creative, loud, and dramatic, which landed me in classes like chorus, show choir, and drama. In these classes, I had like-minded friends, where the drama and theatrics were real intense, but the laughs were just as resounding. I was athletic, growing up playing soccer, basketball, and softball throughout the year, changing sports with the changing season. My teammates were my friends as we created a kinship through knowing that we had to work together and have each other’s backs. I also had what I called my neighborhood friends, where we didn’t necessarily have much in common beyond being bored and wanting to ride bikes, watch MTV, and play sidewalk chalk together (clearly during different stages of adolescence), but we somehow bonded and found common ground exploring our neighborhood and creating chaos in the lakes that centered our quiet Miami-suburbia.

In these groups, I also always felt like the fat friend. Yes, I was athletic and I was active. I worked out every day for whatever sport was in season. I spent little time sitting in front of the tv and lots of time on the go, but I was certainly still built differently than my peers were.

No one specifically told me I was fat, but subtle situations or comments made me feel it. I knew that my clothes were probably 2 sizes larger than my friends and let it impact how I viewed myself. I took it to heart when a family member would tell me things about dieting, even before I was a teenager. I felt sad when I was told to suck it in for a picture. And I felt ostracized when someone would comment on how great that skinny girl looked and would later comment on how a larger girl needed to choose a more flattering outfit that hid her curves.

I put on fat kid goggles and saw myself through that lens. Looking back, I was in actuality not as large as I perceived myself to be, but the mind was a powerful influencer, especially during adolescence.

My younger years

This didn’t make me feel terrible about myself overall, but it certainly had its influence on my own self-perception. My self-efficacy was high. I knew I could accomplish anything I put my mind to and felt successful as I tended to do well at whatever I tried to do. My self-confidence was a bit more malleable. I thought I was my own kind of beautiful, but certainly never felt like I was at a weight I was happy with. I always found something on my body to be unhappy with.

At the end of middle school, I got really into soccer. I practiced on my own, went on runs around my neighborhood, and was in fantastic shape. I was still thicker than my friends and teammates, but I was solid. I felt like I was rocking my look and my confidence started soaring, as I was soaking up the compliments from friends and family alike.

Then, suddenly, while working out harder than I had in my life, my weight started to explode. I gained 40 pounds in a short period of time, without explanation. I had heavy, long period flows. I had black spots show up on my neck and in between my breasts. My diet was good, I was running daily, how could I gain weight?! What were these other symptoms? What was happening to me? As an adolescent, I was devastated and wanted to hide.

Doctors didn’t have answers to these questions. My mom spent over a year taking me to different specialists, running all kinds of labs, and all without explanation. At that time, no one really knew what PCOS was. It wasn’t like it is now, where many people at least know someone who is diagnosed, but we finally got to the moment where a pediatric endocrinologist was able to offer a name to the symptoms. The treatments were really hard on my 14 year old body, but I at least understood that my body was going to work differently than my peers. It was going to be easier to gain weight and harder to lose weight, due to the way my body would process insulin in accordance with my PCOS diagnosis.

Fast Forward

My weight got out of control during my mid-twenties, as I dealt with coming out, family health issues, death of my grandfather (which felt like the death of my father), graduate school, and teaching. This placed me in a state of heightened emotional stress, not to mention that I also just loved food, and resulted in me making terrible food choices based on what made me feel better emotionally, not physically. If you followed my journey previously, you know that the road to pregnancy was spent first with two years of weight loss, due to these decisions.

The work to get healthy was hard. I missed eating what I wanted and there were many times where I didn’t want to go to the gym. But every time I went farther on the elliptical or lost another pound, the sense of accomplishment was profound. 50 pounds down by the end made me feel like I was doing amazing. Sure, I was still obese, but I felt confident and healthier than I ever had as an adult. I looked in the mirror and liked what I saw. I felt sexy, even with any stomach rolls I still had.

If you followed my journey, you also know how badly I wanted to be pregnant. I wanted to be a mom desperately, yes, but I yearned for that pregnant belly. I wanted to look at my bump and rub it. I wanted to feel my child kicking inside of me.

What I didn’t expect was the paradox that would soon follow upon my big fat positive pregnancy result. I look at my twin pregnancy body and feel astounded. I feel strong. Look at what my amazing, female body can do. Look at how my skin stretches, my womb grows, my breasts change. Look at how I lay here and make 2 sets of eyeballs. How does it know how to do that? Yes, I’m a powerful woman and I feel that pride when I see the changes taking place over the past 7 months.

The paradox- I also feel very upset when I look into the mirror right now. The fat kid goggles come back. I look at this huge belly and my see that my legs look bigger and I instantly feel like I need to cover up again, like I once used to feel. I instantly feel the urge to suck in my stomach, but that trick clearly doesn’t work right now. It doesn’t matter that logically I know that I’m growing two humans. The illogical side of my brain takes over.

I see other women taking pictures of their bump without shirts on over it. I see people take bump casts to remember what their amazing body did. I envy them. I can’t do it. Despite the fact that I’m fairly confident that my wife has never found me to be more appealing than I am right now, these thoughts remain true. The thing with body issues is it’s really about how you see yourself, not how others see you.

I hope I can get there. I hope I can take off my fat kid goggles. I hope I can lose those goggles for good for my own mental health and to be a better role model with body positivity for my children. I am working on how to embrace my body soon before it’s all over and these babies are born, especially since I’m pretty sure that this will be my only pregnancy, since kids and the process for lesbians to get pregnant, are so expensive. I hope that I can at least take a picture without a shirt, even if just for myself, and feel proud that this rounding body is making life and is something to be proud of.

Dear Little Whisp and Thumper,

I’ve never experienced the extreme spectrum of emotions like I have while mommy has carried you around in her tummy, helping you grow. Because of her and you both, I have felt my happiest happy and my scariest scared. You see, parenting, being your parent, your mama, is the most daunting thing I have ever done, or will ever do, in my life.

From the second, I saw you as owl eyes on the screen in the doctor’s office, after she helped mommy, me, and God, make you, I knew that it was up to us to try to make sure you would always, or mostly always, choose goodness in your life. Mommy told me once that I want people to be so good sometimes, that I would always be disappointed in them because it’s hard to be good all the time.

From you, before you have gotten here, and I’ve cuddled you and kissed and hugged you, I want you to know that I don’t expect you to be or choose good all the time and I won’t be disappointed in you when you don’t, but I will love you always. I’ll love you when you choose to be kind and when you’re not, though I hope you always are. I’ll love you when you choose to be gracious and when you’re not, though I hope you choose to give of yourself for the good of others more than you don’t. I’ll love you when you choose to be selfless and when you’re selfish, though I hope you know the profoundness of selfless love in your life.

I hope to be the mama that you deserve. Mommy will be amazing. This I know to the bottom of my soul. I know she will play the best dragon and kiss your scrapes with the most tenderness. I know her words will sooth even the hurtiest of hurts in your life. I’ve learned so much from her already, and you’re not even here yet.

You’re my little whisp and thumper, that wiggle to the music I play you and swish under my ears when I place my head to Mommy’s tummy, and more than anything, I want now to be worthy of the blessing God has given Mommy and me in giving us you.

Mommy and I talked about you for years before you were ready to be ours and we were ready to be yours. We talked about the life we would have and the love we would share. We talked about the things we would teach you and you would teach us. We talked about the home we would build for you and how you would feel not only safe and loved, but free to be whoever, and whatever you wanted to be there. You see, before you were ours and we were yours, we loved you so incredibly much that we made sure we could build that home and give you that love and teach you those things.

I’ve always told Mommy that she was my favorite person. It was something I started saying after she introduced me to what I’m sure will be a recurring film in our home still, “Mary Poppins.” I have three favorite persons now in this incredibly blessed life of mine: Mommy, and my little whisp and my little thumper.

When you finally make your entrance into this world, there is one thing you can know for certain, Mommy and I have loved you since forever because God destined us to be a family long before we knew what our family would look like. Our hearts and homes have grown to receive you and though we want you to keep cooking until you’re ready, we can’t wait for you to get here, so that we can love on you.

Forever your Mama,

Tiffany

While They’ve Been Growing

~Tiffany

The Elusive Kicks

Try as I might, by sight, or sound, or touch, they elude me. Aly has been feeling Bella and Benny for days now. DAYS! As soon as she alerts me that she feels something, my hand immediately goes where hers is resting, presumably, hovering over where they’ve been bouncing. Nothing. I place my ear to her tummy where I can feel my daughter is laying just out of reach and she has nothing yet to say to me, so all I do is sing to them. Songs that I sang just to Aly before we were pregnant, but now they’re our songs, our not-so-little family’s songs. 

CORN!

The many apps we have, tell us how they’re growing (11.3 inches and about 1.5 lbs each now – the size of an ear of corn!). And the phenomenon that I already feel like a parent before they’re even here, when they’re just 1.5lbs, is astounding to me, but I do. As I build their cribs, to make sure their place to sleep is safe, and paint their room, to make sure the place they call home is soothing, I’m doing everything I can outside of Aly’s womb to make sure I can be the best parent I can be. 

The Parenting 

I keep saying that I will only have a chance at being good at this parenting thing, because I have Aly by my side , as with all things in my life. I know I have so much to learn from her. She’s so naturally nurturing with kids. They immediately connect with her and she knows how to connect with them. It’s what made her such a great teacher. 

When these babies are born, there will be a lot of experiential learning. After all, neither of us has ever changed a diaper, but the diapers will get changed, and neither of us has ever bathed babies, but they will get bathed. 

Most who know me, know that I’m not the most animated person. Pretend play will not come naturally to me; Aly has always been better at that. We’ve talked before on this blog that I’m naturally a fixer, rather than a feeler and Aly is naturally a feeler. That means that when they come to us and say that someone hurt their feelings at school, she will immediately tend to their emotional wounds and I will be holding them thinking about who will incur my wrath at their school the next day and who I can contact immediately to rectify what has been done to my child. We will navigate this world of parenting balancing each other out as we always have. She will calm me down and tell me that my wrath is unnecessary, and that my focus should be on bandaging the hurt that was caused to our son or daughter, and I will take her with me to the principal’s/teacher’s office the next day, so that she can keep me calm while I rationally explain to them that they need to do better to protect my children when I’m not around.

I read all these posts about parenting and all the profound things that you want to do for your children and wish, hope, pray, that I will be able to do them. I read a post by Glennon Doyle that said, “I used to lie to my kids all the time, back when I thought my job as a parent was to shield them from pain to keep them safe rather than walking them through their pain to make them brave.” I think about how I want them to be safe AND brave. I think about how I can possibly ensure both and how daunting just that sounds.

Delivery Roulette

We’re taking this online twin parenting class, because of course we are. The good news is that we’ve made the right decisions with things like our cribs and cars seats and the multitude of mom blogs and Pinterest boards we’ve consulted have led us to the right products to put on our registry. The not necessarily great news: One of the tasks that the class gave us to do was to watch some birthing videos to compare a C-section and vaginal birth of twins. An hour and half later, I’m convinced twin mommies are nothing but heroes. HEROES! All mommies are, but twin mommies… Do yourself a favor and watch one of those videos if you don’t agree with me. The moral of the story is that there is no easy way for us to have these babies. 

Here are some interesting facts for you: Vaginal or C-section delivery will be rough because there are two of them growing and if you didn’t know, all of this depends on the positioning of Baby A, which in our case is Bennett. All of this rides on if Bennett is in a good position for vaginal delivery. If he’s head-down and ready to go, then we’re at least starting off that way, otherwise, he’s decided that they’re both coming out through C-section. Our baby boy holds the cards in this crazy game of delivery roulette.

So I Guess While I Wait…

For now, I’ll keep putting my ears and hands to Aly’s tummy, hoping to hear them move or feel them kick. Until then, I’ll just keep singing to them and thinking about how to make them safe and teach them to be brave and kind and compassionate. Also, we’ll be waiting for Benny to decide how he wants Bella and him to make an entrance into the world.

As always, thank you for your thoughts and prayers and well-wishes. We appreciate all of them and hope that you and your loved-ones are staying healthy and safe.

No Stressing, Just Nesting

 Aly’s POV- Excuse the crazy hair, but Tiffany and I are in full nesting mode. We picked “honied white” #SherwinWilliams Zero VOC paint for the babies’ room. Tiffany and my grandma are painting Benny and Bella’s nursery and I am staying far away in case there could be any fumes. While they paint, I’ve been organizing our baby supplies. Thank you to everyone who has sent us diapers and wipes. We signed up for rewards with #Huggies and #Pampers because we know we’re going to need them. Did you know that the twins will go through 600 diapers a month? My mom is cleaning the rest of our house to save us all from CORONA anxiety.

Tiffany’s POV- Life’s a little crazy right now and we’ve got nowhere to go. This weekend, to distract from all of the stress, we steam cleaned the carpets, painted the nursery, built one of the cribs, organized a bunch of baby stuff, dusted our bedroom furniture… and I’m sore just writing this. Aly’s 15th wind is still going while I lick my wounds just keeping up. Pregnancy gives you superpowers, I’m convinced of this now more than ever. Every time we walk into the nursery and something else is done, we get so excited. Our baby latkes are growing and we can’t wait to meet them.