Mama Meets Her Latkes

~Tiffany

Where to begin…The moments following the birth of our children were…too many things. They were amazing, overwhelming, uncertain, humbling… All of the things. 

I was escorted from the operating room by a couple of nurses. I kissed Aly’s forehead and told her I’d see her soon, but I needed to go with our babies. They thankfully didn’t have any NICU time, Bella being just above the weight limit required. We were taken to Recovery to wait for Aly to get out of surgery and to do the first of several assessments on the babies.

I struggle to find words here to describe what this time was like, but I’ll try. It was beautiful, and heart wrenching, it was intimidating, and defining.  We, meaning, myself, Arabella, and Bennett, were taken to a curtained off room. Empty, save for some medical equipment I knew would be used to monitor Aly once she arrived. The nurses wheeled in Bella and Benny and started doing some quick vitals. All I could do was stand at what I thought was a respectful distance (this seems funny to me now, they’re my children afterall). I watched the nurses do their work and make sure that our two latkes were doing ok. Bella seemed so much smaller than Benny. In retrospect, it was only a pound, but, since then, we’ve taken to calling her “delicate” and him “stocky,” so the difference looks much more severe than it is. , Really, the only difference in their vitals was that Bella had a little trouble maintaining her body temperature, so they turned on the heat lamp overhead of her bassinet and told me she was perfect and so was Benny. I already knew this. 

Once the vitals were done, the nurse that had been attending to Benny turned to me, and asked me if I wanted to hold him. My response to this question now, makes me chuckle when I think about it, and I’m sure it always will. I wonder how many new parents are like I was in their uncertainty about their new role as a parent, as I answered, “can I?” I asked the nurse permission to hold my son, really hold him for the first time, and she laughed and said, “of course” before placing him solidly into my arms. 

My son slept soundly as I stared in awe. I had pulled up a seat, so that I could be stable holding him for the first time, much as you would do for a child who is being introduced to a baby for the first time. Again, this is humorous to me now. She placed him in my arms and after making sure I had him well in hand, quietly stepped out of the room. This moment was one of many humbling ones I had that evening. I searched  my mind for what to do next. I loved him already, this was absolute. I looked up into the bassinet holding his sister and confirmed, yes, this was true for her as well. My heart belonged to both of them and their Mommy, with whom I was very anxious to be reunited and share this moment. I began a light rock in the chair on which I sat and inadvertently began to hum the first tune that came to my head: “All Is Found,” from Frozen II. 

I alternated staring at both Benny and Bella as I hummed, unaware, and uncaring if anyone else was hearing me, or I was off tune. I was in awe and this song, and his warmth in my arms, and her sleeping form in front of me, grounded me to the moment. I missed Aly terribly and when Bella’s nurse came in to check on how her temperature was progressing, I asked if there was any news on when she would be out of surgery. This was the first of many inquiries over however long it took until she was being rolled into the room we were waiting for her in, her son, daughter, and I. While I waited for the nurse to find out, I stared again at my beautiful children and tried to let that sink in. They were my children. Our children. They were here. And my God, how stunning were they? I ran my hands softly over every feature of Benny’s beautiful face and placed my hand on Bella’s head inside her bassinet, not wanting to disturb whatever treatment she was getting from the heat lamp overhead. 

It’s funny, three weeks in, I reflect on these moments and consider how I treated them exactly how I thought I would. Like crystal. Like they were breakable because I didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing. 

Aly was eventually rolled in from surgery and, even in her medicated state, she was just as in awe as I was at the beautiful children she had made in her tummy. Shortly after getting her settled, Benny’s nurse came in and asked if I’d like to help feed them. Again, I answered with the same apprehension, and anxious anticipation. “Can I? I’d love to.” And then I was holding Bella in my arms for the first time, feeding her and it hit me again. This extraordinary love. Aly and I have taken to calling it, “crazy.” I don’t know how many times a day we say, “it’s crazy how much I love them. They’re perfect.”

While we were in recovery, for the 8 hours we were there, I fed both of them and held them both, and comforted them both, each time, growing more confident in my ability to do so. At first, when they cried, I was only brave enough to place my hand lightly on them and rock them back and forth, not having had permission from the nurse to pick them up. Again, this is funny to me now. Aly had skin to skin for the first time with both of the babies there as I looked on and fell in love again and again. 

In the days following, while Aly recovered, I slowly shed the apprehension I had felt in our beginning moments in recovery and the babies and I got to know each other. When Benny had his first poopie diaper, I asked the nurse to teach me how to clean him properly and every change since then, has been relatively without fear (there have been some doozies that have left me with a healthy level of fear, lol). 

Since we’ve left the hospital, Aly and I have only fallen more for our latkes. We spend an inordinate amount of time staring at them. I take an obscene amount of pictures and live for the smell of their skin and feel of their hands wrapping around my fingers. I never expected parenthood to be like this. So, all-consuming. We freely admit we’re obsessed with our babies. Lol. We’re absolutely crazy for them. Aly said to me, “if there was anything else in the world that interrupted our life as much as these babies, we would loathe it, how can we love them this much?” To which I responded, “I don’t know, but they do, and we really do.” That’s to say nothing about how you all of a sudden are able to function on exponentially less sleep than before they got here. It’s what I’m calling, the “parenting phenomenon.” Though I’m sure there’s something much more scientific about it. We keep saying we’re swimming in Oxytocin and that’s what’s giving us our superhuman energy. 

I get life now from the moments when they fall asleep against my chest and when I feel and see them growing. It fills me with joy when Aly cuddles with them and I am in awe of myself, to be honest, and the side of myself that I didn’t know existed but comes out around these babies so naturally. I am unabashedly silly and unrepentantly affectionate. I kiss feet and noses and smell heads and in the moments between feeding, and playing, and changing, when we have some quiet time, I wonder how it’s possible that I didn’t know I was meant for this more than anything else.

Becoming Mommy and Mama

Disclaimer: As we have done previously in The Albrecht Household blog posts, this post, which discusses the story leading to our twins’ birth, is separated into 2 perspectives on the same events. We hope this offers a more complete view of what it is like to be in each of our positions during this time.

Tiffany’s Point of View

Waiting for Their Birth

Where to begin…we’re in love and it’s been two weeks, but in all honesty, that part happened immediately, though I’ll let Aly explain her experience. 

The part that everyone knows at this point is that we spent two weeks in the hospital anticipating our twins’ grand entrance into the world. What we haven’t talked about was when it became “go-time”, until now. I’ll speak from my perspective and leave it up to Aly to share however much she feels comfortable later in this post. Needless to say, the birth of our children was not without drama and a high level of emotional upheaval. 

In the early morning on August 1st, or to us, 35 and 5, I hadn’t slept much the night prior. It was 2:30am, and I was anticipating the next set of Aly’s vitals at 4am. Something was keeping me up and I didn’t know what it was. It could have been that we had been in the hospital for two weeks, it could have been the not-so-comfortable guest pull-out bed, it could have been the stress we had been under, or the inevitable arrival of our latkes, or thinking about what parenting would be like, or thinking about all the decisions we had made in just the prior several days that changed the course of how we would approach the birth. The truth is, it was probably all of that. The truth is, all of those things had kept me up for most of all of the nights we spent at the hospital and throughout most of the days. 

When the nursing assistant came in to take Aly’s vitals at 4am, as expected, the process was much the same, pulse-ox, temperature, blood pressure. We waited, as always, for the numbers to show up, and the alarm went off that indicated her blood pressure was above where it needed to be. The nursing assistant said she’d be back in 15 minutes, per the hospital protocol to take it again, and in 15 minutes she was back again. The results were similar. Aly and I looked at each other and I jokingly said to her, “You know this means I was right all along.” I had predicted that our twins would be born on August 1st from the beginning. She laughed and shrugged, and said to me, “If it happens, it happens.” A calm had settled over us as we waited for whatever would come. Our nurse walked in and hooked up the non-stress test monitors so that we could get a reading on our twins and the on-call high-risk doctors stopped by to confirm that, sure enough, we were going to be induced. 

When the doctor from our normal OB/GYN practice stopped by, she explained how the process would unfold from then on and checked to see how Aly had progressed, if at all prior to inducing. She was much further than anyone anticipated and we found out later that she had probably already been in labor, and that had probably been the cause of the high blood pressure to begin with. They hooked some meds up to her IV to get her blood pressure under control and to labor and delivery we went. 

Labor and Delivery

Our nurse in labor and delivery was arguably the best nurse we had the entire time we were at the hospital. She was kind, attentive, compassionate, and humored us when we trying to make light of what inducing would be like for Aly since she apparently didn’t feel that she had been contracting for however long she had already been in labor. We joked and said, that maybe she would be the one that God spared from the pain, but quickly informed the nurse that anesthesia should still be on deck with that epidural in case we were wrong. Things progressed pretty quickly from there. We got the babies on the monitors and they were twinning, so it was difficult for the nurses to tell one heart rate from the other. We laughed as they came in for the 10th time to adjust the sensors on the Aly’s soon-to-not-be-pregnant tummy, and ultimately, called the doctor in to get his opinion on whether they needed to approach it differently. 

Aly was feeling contractions by this point, but they were few and far between, so when they kicked on the meds to induce labor, and she still wasn’t feeling much once a contraction was hitting, the nurse and I laughed and admitted that perhaps she really would be the one. Until she wasn’t. She started feeling pressure, but not pain, and our doctor came in frequently to check on her, knowing that she was going to want the juice. He indicated that she shouldn’t ask for it until she started feeling pain, so we waited, and the pain came, so Anesthesia followed. Here’s where my perspective on the birth story will really start to differ a bit from Aly’s. During the epidural, she was a champ. She didn’t feel a thing, did everything that was asked of her, moved as she was told, even though it was tough for her, being 35 weeks and 5 days pregnant with twins. About 5 minutes after getting her in the optimum position once she was laying down, her blood pressure bottomed out and 10 people came rushing into the room to stabilize her and make sure the babies were ok. We were told this was a common side effect, but that brought no solace to me as I watched entire room fill with people, in my mind, working to keep my wife and children okay. I held a cool towel to her neck as an oxygen mask was placed over her face and additional monitors were placed on our babies because it had already been hard to get a good reading on them. They pushed one med and another as I stood there and prayed my heaviest prayer up until that point in my life that God would take care of the things I held most dear and bless the hands of the people that were helping. This was, up until that point, the single most terrifying moment of my life. It took a while, and lots of medical jargon that frustratingly, went over my head, but they ultimately got her stable and she was coherent enough to be able to tell me she was okay, even though emotionally, she probably wasn’t. That was scary in a different way for her, I’m sure as her body did things that she didn’t will it to. 

Once, everything had calmed down, the inducement proceeded and it took about 10 hours from the time we entered labor and delivery to the time when the nurse came in and said, “it’s time to start pushing.”

Change of Plans

In the two and a half hours that followed, I witnessed my wife do the most amazing thing I have ever seen anyone do. I’ll invoke Glennon Doyle here when I say that I watched her become a cheetah, and do exactly what she was born to do. I held her hand, arm, leg, any body part I was instructed to, that would help her brace for the next contraction, and, in reverence, watched as she listened to her body and responded to it, telling her how to push our son out. She was a hero, a mother effing rockstar. I was in awe, humbled to help in any way that I could to help this miracle that was happening before my eyes. We were about to meet our children and Aly, in her strongest, most amazing form, was making that happen. The only hinderance, being that Benny was determined to stay in. After hours, the doctor informed us that Bella’s heart tones were not reacting well to the labor, and it would be best if we proceeded with a c-section, so the plans changed again and I could see in Aly’s eyes that she felt she had done her best, but she also felt defeated. 

We agreed with the doctor and said, “let’s do it.” We wanted everyone safe and healthy. So, again, an army of people came into the room to prep her for surgery and presented me with surgical scrubs to change into. I watched as, in the middle of shift change, they prepped and medicated, and introduced themselves and introduced themselves again. I tried to be part of the wall, so as to not get in their way, but also look as intently as I could at my wife who I knew was about to undergo major surgery. The fear and weight that overwhelmed me, almost left me immobilized, as I absentmindedly slipped the scrubs over my clothes and prayed, yet again, continuously, for God to take care of her and our children. I think I begged more than prayed, as I felt the control slipping from me. They rolled her into the operating room and left to sit in the loneliest chair I’ve ever sat in just outside of the operating room hall for them to call me once she was prepped. The doctor passed me on his way in and said they would call me once they were ready for me. I implored him to take care of her, them, as he self-assuredly went into the hall, to ready himself to bring my children into the world and keep my wife stable.

I was beside myself with worry. Fought with myself to stay seated. Envisioned myself rushing into the operating room, just to make sure I had eyes on her. All of these things wrapped themselves around me and made me feel a panic I’d never felt as I sat, again immobilized. Time felt stilled as the minutes ticked by and no one had yet come to get me. I wondered if something had gone wrong. If the amount of time I had been waiting was normal. If, for goodness sake, someone would just come get me already. Then, someone did.

They brought me into an operating room with my wife laying down alert and what must have been a dozen people in the room. I sat next to her head and pushed my fingers through her hair as I told her I love her and how incredible amazing I thought she was. I could hear things happening in my periphery, but I focused on her and then the anesthesiologist was pulling the curtain back to reveal our son and I could have fallen to my knees as my eyes filled with tears. His cries pierced the room with the strength of his lungs and I was in absolute awe that he was real, and he was beautiful, and the person I love most in the world, created another person I love most in the world. I told Aly what I saw, that he was beautiful and what a pair of lungs he had on him, and that she had made an absolutely perfect little boy. The curtain was raised again and I kissed Aly on her forehead and congratulated her on being a mommy. I reverently repeated that I loved her and then the curtain was pulled back again to reveal our gorgeous daughter. Aly asked why she wasn’t crying, and that seemed to trigger her, because her cries then filled the room along with her brothers, and our family was complete. I again told Aly how absolutely perfect she had made our children and how proud I was of her. 

I was given the opportunity to greet our latkes as they had their Apgar assessed, which they passed with flying colors and watched in awe and the little humans we had made with our love. I looked at their little feet and their little hands. I listened to their very well developed lungs, and thanked God that they passed all their tests with flying colors and didn’t need to go to NICU. I reported back to Aly how perfect they really were and then we were meeting them as a family. We were both in love. With each other, with them, individually and as a pair. All of us. It was, I know now, the defining moment of my life, the moment Aly made me a mama. 

Aly’s Point of View

The Miracle of Birth

We always hear that term- it’s the miracle of birth. There are miraculous moments in my birth journey with our twins. It’s a miracle that we all ended up safe. It’s a miracle that both babies entered this world healthy at 35 weeks and 5 days, without either needing any NICU time. It’s a miracle that my wife and I were blessed with these 2 little perfect beings and that our family is complete. It’s a miracle that we all got to go home together. You may be saying to yourself that it seems like a whole lot of miracles happened there and you would be right. But from my point of view, it feels more like the trauma of birth than the miracle of birth. 

Birth trauma is a real thing. It happens to lots of women. It has now happened to me. It doesn’t get talked about often. Culturally, birth is not supposed to be viewed as traumatic. Birth is beautiful, or at least it can be, but I can tell you that I feel robbed of my birth experience. I didn’t expect to be a pregnancy unicorn and have everything go perfectly, but I never thought it would be as scary as it was. When I talk about it now, I can’t talk about it without crying. Reliving the rollercoaster of pain, confusion, lack of awareness, and instability is still a bit raw. 

That morning, my blood pressure spiked at 4am. A few minutes later, I was told that I would be induced for my safety and for the safety of the babies. They would treat my blood pressure with a cocktail of medications and supplements going through my IV and it wasn’t long after that I was being transported to labor and delivery. To their surprise, I was already 4cm dilated and 70% effaced. They suspected that I was actually already in labor and that could have resulted in the huge spike in blood pressure in just a few hours. 

Labor and Delivery

While in labor and delivery, I was being prepped for vaginal birth while they monitored my and the babies’ vitals continuously. Things were stabilizing and I was getting myself mentally prepped for what was to come. I remember looking at my wife and thinking that she looked really nervous. I told her that I was feeling great and that we should be excited to see our babies soon. I didn’t want her to worry, though I knew she would. 

Things seemed to go well while getting an epidural a couple hours later, once the contractions became too intense to bear. I was working on my breathing and resting in between each one. As soon as the epidural was given and the catheter was placed in my spine, I was told to move myself down to the front of the bed a bit. As I did, the room started to spin. I instantly felt cold sweats and intensely weak. I laid there in a bit of shock as I whispered “something is wrong. I don’t feel well.” I felt like I was in a dream-like state. There was a rush of people and commotion in the room. My bed was surrounded as my blood pressure bottomed out. I was in and out. Medications were being pushed in my IV on my left side. I had a second IV on my right side that was already in use. Near my head to my right, I saw my wife patting me with a wet washcloth. She was white as a ghost and had a familiar face on. I knew that face; she was praying. I tried to smile at her reassuringly through the chaos and the oxygen mask that somehow made it on my face. I have no idea if I actually made the smile. I felt agonizing pain then as the doctor did something with his arm up inside me to stabilize the twins. I screamed through it, which my wife has later revealed that I never actually made a noise. The screaming must have been in my head, though I could have sworn it was out loud. 

Suddenly, I was stabilized. Whatever they did worked and shortly after they told me it was time to start pushing. Pushing was not painful thanks to the epidural, but it was exhausting. I slept in between contractions, trying to find the strength. Two and a half hours later, the doctor stated that only little progress had been made and that Arabella was starting to have decreased heart tones. It was time now for a c-section. 

There was a new mental state to prepare for now. I was exhausted and feeling desperate for me and the twins to make it out ok. Another group of people emerged. It was time for shift change and these strangers were surrounding me preparing me for what was now to come during this major surgery. 

I was separated from Tiffany for a bit and was terrified. I needed to have her there to hold my hand. It was incredibly reassuring to have her with me once they brought her into the OR. I felt confused and hazed as all the medications and the stress were taking over me, while I laid behind and beneath this blue curtain that shielded me from all the work they were doing to bring our babies into the world. 

I started off only feeling pressure. Just some tugging and movement. Then, I started to feel pain, definitely more than pressure. I could feel actual pain and burning as they used the cauterizer on me. I pleaded with the nurse anesthetist through moans and she told me that she couldn’t give me anything else until the babies were out. She kept reassuring me that they were almost out. Then I heard it, I heard Bennett scream. I could see him being lifted and moved to one of the two NICU teams waiting to assess him. I cried and I looked at my wife. She was crying too. Here was our son that we waited so long for. His entrance gave me the courage to calm down, even through the pain, not that I had a choice, knowing that my daughter was on her way too. They lifted a shield from the blue curtain to reveal a small clear window where I could see Arabella emerge into the world. The room started to spin for me. Everything felt muffled. I asked my wife if Arabella was crying and she told me she was. I felt a sense of relief as the NICU teams told us that both babies looked healthy. Our twins were born. 

The Haze 

It was around this point where they heavily medicated me. What I remember from the rest of the next two days is just a bunch of snapshots. Tiny moments of time that scatter like a deck of cards trying to come together but instead they fall to the floor in a bit of a jumble. I don’t remember so many things. I don’t remember holding my babies for the first time. I don’t remember feeding them for the first time. I didn’t get to have this moment of “wow, I’m a mom. These are my babies” as the reality hit me. I was heavily medicated to keep me safe, but it robbed me of what I had waited my entire life for…the moment you look at your children for the first time and realize they are yours and that you’re a parent. Being a parent is made up of so much more than that first moment where you see and hold your child for the first time. I am aware of this, but I can’t help but feel like I missed out on a major milestone. 

I do remember that I stayed on the OR table being put back together for a long time. My wife and babies- I don’t know where they went. I know I kept moaning asking for the pain to stop before they would hit me with another round of meds that would knock me out again.

I don’t know how I got into the recovery room. I know that I was supposed to be in there for around 1 hour and ended up there for 8. My blood pressure was a yo-yo. High and low. High and low. Repeatedly. Each time starting some clock for protocol that kept me there longer. 

The memories are just snapshots of random moments. A flash- my wife in the corner holding one of the babies. A flash- two bassinets with babies laying next to me. I reach my hand out to touch them, but they’re too far. A flash- more meds being pushed. A flash- a new room and new nurse. I’m in postpartum recovery. A flash- I fell asleep with a baby in my arms. Tiffany is watching my every move to let me hold them, but also keep the babies safe. A flash- I have to move and feel like I’m being ripped apart from the inside out. I tell Tiffany that I think my guts are hanging out and that’s my incision must be open. She needs to check to see if I am ok. A flash- they take me off the meds. A flash- a nurse takes my babies vitals and they scream. I worry. 

I know I texted people. I acted like everything was fine. I’m not sure I was aware yet how not fine things had been. I think I might have posted things on social media. I have zero memory. It’s all gone. The birth I waited for, the moments I became a mom are gone. I mourn the loss of the experience, while also knowing that all the memories I make as a parent matter more. I mourn the pain I felt and the trauma of all the happened, especially after already spending 2 weeks in the hospital, while also looking at my babies and feeling lucky. I mourn feelings of the uncertainty of all that happened, as I spew a never ending list of questions and rely on my wife to fill in the gaps during our conversations in the car to and from follow up appointments. 

Good job, Mommy. Good job, Mama.

Once I came to and the world looked more whole again, I realized that my wife had been essentially parenting twins for two days on her own. I felt weak and in pain, but I wanted to try. I wanted to parent and every second not parenting them felt like an eternity too long. I let her two days of experience guide me on what she had already learned about each baby’s feeding, diapering, and cuddling needs. She knew them already, but I was still holding strangers in my arms. 

The doctors and nurses all suggested that I take Percocet. They reminded me that my pain was real and that I should consider it. For me, I knew that I had already been in a medicated haze and had missed my children’s first two days of life. I didn’t know what they liked or what was bothering them yet, but my wife did. I wasn’t going to miss out on more. Physical pain sounded better than the emotional pain of missing more of their lives. 

At the end of my first really coherent day, I was able to comfort the babies during a time where they felt discomfort. My wife, my constant during all of this, looked at me and said “Good job, mommy.” Three words that really undid me. Three really simple words, but they had me break down. Three words that validated me as a parent and let me know I was on the right path now. I would experience them. I would love them. I could do this with my wife by my side. 

These three words are now a staple during the hard moments. Each time one of us has a parenting win over the next couple of weeks, we have looked at each other and said “Good job, mommy” or “Good job, mama” to the respective parent. These words will continue to bring us through the new part of our journey together. They are a small, but major reminder that we will be each other’s cheerleaders and support through all the unexpected that is yet to come.

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.

I am Shoe

~Tiffany

Who is “Mommy” and who is “Mama”?

One of the things Aly and I have been talking a lot about lately is what the babies will call us. In an effort to understand where some of our community stood on this, we went onto one of our LGBTQ parenting support group sites to see if this was a topic that had been discussed in previous posts. It turns out it was, and it turns out that, yet again, Aly and I were in the minority in what we were inclined to go with and what felt right for us. 

Aly and I have decided to be called, “Mommy”, and “Mama”, respectively. However, we noticed a lot of the responses centered around assigning a “Mommy”-like name to the mother carrying the child and then something entirely different to her partner. We were reading things like the kids calling them by their name or calling them “Mama” but followed by the initial of their first name, while the carrying mother didn’t have that delineation. We were reading comment after comment of families approaching the situation this way, and we thought, “what makes us different?” It was glaring that we were. There were a few responses where couples had a person who identified as non-binary, and so they preferred and went with, perhaps something more similar to “Mama”, “Papa”, and that made more sense to us for that situation, but approaching it in a way that seems to elevate the place of the carrying mother wasn’t even something that had entered our mind, so we tilted our heads in question at that one. Let’s discuss.

This is our perspective: in every way, the babies Aly is growing in her tummy, are just as much mine as hers. She is as much their mother, as I am. That she has been, and will continue to provide nourishment to them well after they are born, in no way means that she holds a higher status than I do. As far as we’re concerned, it was our love, faith, and God that brought these babies into our lives, irrespective of the fact that they won’t be biological or genetic representations of me. They feel so wholly hers and mine, that we forget that a donor even exists. Aly and I often say that we made them together with a little help from our doctor. 

Aly said she felt like she was, “the vessel” to bring our babies into our lives. I imagine, that’s what I would have considered myself as well, had I been the one to carry them because I’ve always felt that our children didn’t need to be a genetic representation of us for them to be ours and meant for us. That Aly is carrying them and that they will have her chin and her lips and her eyes, makes this experience all the more special, but it does not mean that they are any more hers than mine. In other words, I’m their mom, too, in equal measure. Thoughts?

Who is Shoe?

I’ve chosen “Mama” because it feels right to me. It feels like who I am supposed to be to our latkes. However, I know that there will inevitably come a time when they assign to me their own moniker that they’ve created from well-timed and articulated babble. I’m well aware that one day, I could be, “baba,” or, “lala,” or “shoe.” All of which I am okay with because they will be uttered from their cute little baby lips. So, if for a time I am Shoe, so be it.

The Roles We Play

Reading through the comments on that discussion thread got us thinking about the roles we will play in our childrens’ lives and whether there was something we were missing about our thinking or approach, because we weren’t in agreement, and in many instances in addition to this one, we haven’t been in agreement with a lot of the couples who have responded to these threads. We came to the same conclusion we always come to, and probably the one that each of those families came to, we’re doing what feels right for us and our family. The reality is that our kids will likely call us whatever we want them to call us because we will teach them. The more important thing is that the roles we play in their lives will be equal. Different, I’m sure, because Aly has her strengths and I have mine, but, equal. 

The more we get into reading through these parenting blogs and threads, we realize that we’ve already made decisions about how we want to approach this thing we’re doing, raising good humans. We have no idea if the way we will do it will be right. We have no idea if we will be successful. We know immediately when something feels right or doesn’t and in the end, our instinct has usually made up our mind about something before we’ve looked it up to see what popular opinion is, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t malleable if something strikes that we haven’t considered and that feels more right. 

Sometimes, parenting feels like chess. Our babies aren’t here yet and I feel like we’re already moving our pawns in this game of life, avoiding pandemics, setting up strategies to make them face the battalion of people who won’t like them simply for who their parents are, and protecting them the best we can from those who seek to do them harm. It feels like the best decision we made and the scariest one at the same time. Can I get an Amen?

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.

Superstitious

~Aly

There are many stereotypes that are associated with lesbians. I hate to perpetuate any because, like every community, all members of our community are unique. Yet, Tiffany and I do validate a few stereotypes- one being that we met on our high school softball team. I was a freshman on the varsity team desperately looking for someone to pair with for warm ups. She was new to the varsity team and needed a partner too. A friendship developed and more blossomed later. The rest is history. 

Something you may or may not know about athletes is that their lives in sports are surrounded by superstitions. There were people on our team  who didn’t wash their socks during winning streaks. We all had to cross 3 body parts (fingers, arms, and legs) when traveling past a cemetery to a game. Specific bats, mitts, and balls were deemed to be lucky. While Tiffany and I are past the stage in our lives of participating in team sports, sometimes old habits die hard. 

A few days ago, while Tiffany and I prepared for the second insemination (we are currently in our two-week wait again), I noticed that our superstitious mindsets still surrounded us. The routines being setup by us to try to ensure a positive IUI result were and are aplenty. 

Us about to go into the Dr.’s office for IUI Round 2

Our Positive IUI Superstitions:

  • Putting the right movie on before bed the night before our IUI will create a good day the next day. The choices are normally “You’ve Got Mail” or “Mary Poppins.” They set the optimal scene for the next day, apparently. 
  • Jewelry is an important accessory choice that brings the right energy into the procedure, if you choose correctly. 
    • 3 Alex and Ani bracelets:
      • Disney Christmas bracelet- to bring us a Christmas miracle this year.
      • Elephant- for luck, of course.
      • Cross- to bring strength, faith, and blessings. 
  • A specific perfume will make the doctor give us a good report. I didn’t wear it once to our appointment and our 1st IUI got delayed. This further validated the use of this perfume as a necessary part of our IUI routine. 
  • Wearing matching t-shirts, with the word “Love” written across the chest, to the IUI procedure will remind us of the strength within our relationship and will help us keep the right mindset throughout. 
  • Making wishes when the clock shows 11:11 for a healthy pregnancy and baby can’t be missed. 

Do I really believe that all of these things will determine our IUI fate? No, but my gut says “Why chance it?!”

I am able to recognize the hilarity, absurdity, and desperation in it all. When it comes down to it, all of this is just an attempt for this type-A woman to have the illusion of control. I’m grateful that Tiffany joins me in these ridiculous antics, so that we both can embrace our weirdness.

Ultimately, we are so ready to be mamas that we are willing to go through all of these silly routines to help get us there, even if they are just based on superstition.

If you know of any more lucky things we should add to our routine, I invite you to share it with us. After all, it can’t hurt! 🙂

IUI: Round 1 Part 2- Aly’s POV

~Aly

I won’t keep you in anticipation. I’ll start this blog by letting you know what everyone has been waiting for. I’m not pregnant. Am I upset? Yes. Is this the end? No. This blog post was written the night that we found out, so it’s pretty raw, but I thought it would be better to purge it all and also fill everyone in.

The Two Week Wait

After IUI (insemination of sperm deep into the uterus), which by the way was quick and painless, comes the dreaded two-week wait. I had read about this several times and heard about it on other lesbian couple vlogs. I remembered feeling like the two weeks would go by very fast. I thought about all the things you have to do daily- work, cook, clean- and thought this left little time to obsess over this. I was wrong. Never have two weeks felt so long. Days felt endless.

During the two week wait, the reproductive endocrinologist also had me taking progesterone daily. This helps to increase your chances that fertilization will occur by making your uterine lining sticky and decrease your chances of miscarriage. The benefits are great. The downside is that once you’re pregnant your body produces more progesterone naturally. This means that the early signs of pregnancy are also side effects for those taking progesterone. I felt pregnant, with all the early pregnancy symptoms, but without the benefit of actually being pregnant. I felt cramping constantly, extreme fatigue, considerable abdominal bloating, pain in my back muscles, aches in my leg joints, and emotional ups/downs daily. This kept Tiffany and I symptom spotting and truly made us feel like we were dealing with a positive pregnancy result. I think this hope made the fall feel that much harder.

Tiffany was truly a champ during the two week wait. They say to take it easy during this time. You don’t want to over-exert yourself. My wife took this to heart. She did EVERYTHING around the house and insisted that I stay off my feet. She also was my solid emotional foundation through the rollercoaster. Getting through this would be impossible without her. Just thinking about how blessed I am to have her support chokes me up.

The Results

We broke the cardinal rule of the two week wait. Don’t take a pregnancy test early. Take it too early and you risk a false positive from the trigger shot that Tiffany administered (per the doctor’s orders) to induce ovulation. Alternatively, taking it too early can also give you a false negative because the HCG that pregnancy tests are measuring may not be high enough yet, even if you are pregnant. By the time we took the test, the package insert stated that it would be 75% accurate. It clearly was negative, but we kept up faith. We stayed hoping for a false negative within that 25% wiggle room. Unfortunately, the blood test that the doctor ordered confirmed that this indeed was a negative result.

The Aftermath

Getting the final result has been a whirlwind of emotions for both of us. Tiffany has grown very quiet, as I know she is processing her emotions internally. Certainly, she is still trying to be my pillar of strength.

At 14, while undergoing testing to determine the cause of my symptoms, an ultrasound tech looked down at my terrified 14 year old face and said, “Yeah, you definitely have PCOS. You’re not going to be able to have children.” This woman doesn’t know how her words crushed me at 14. She certainly doesn’t know what it does to me at 29, as it still echoes around me like a threat in my mind. The negative result made me go back to that place and feel 14 again, despite that my doctor feels that I have an excellent chance of conceiving.

I have been all over the place. I feel sad that it didn’t take. I feel guilty that my wife and family have been so excited and that now as a result of me not getting pregnant, that they are now disappointed too. I feel like I’m being too hard on myself, while simultaneously wondering what else I could have done. I feel like God has the perfect timing and that this must not be it. I feel hopeful that the next time it will take. I feel loved from all of the support. But most of all, I feel exhausted. The journey just to get here has been so long and I desperately hoped that this next step would be easier. I wanted something to go smoothly for us in this process. It’s hard to keep stumbling and pulling myself back up, but I certainly will.

What’s Coming Up

When the doctor called to officially give us the news, she also gave us a light to look forward to. She told us that she thought we should just keep moving forward and go directly into the next IUI in just a few weeks. We agreed immediately.

We knew that the chances the first round were only at a 20% success rate. Your chances go up each round as your doctor makes adjustments based on the unique aspects of how your body reacts.

I am so hopeful for the next round. Praying to God for His will to be done and praying for strength and faith for what is to come. This process brought me so much closer to God as I’ve come to realize how little is in my control. I’m learning to give up control to Him slowly but surely through it all.

With the hope of another round also comes significant pressure. Each round costs us $2000 and I know each round is also critical to our morale through our fertility journey.

Thanksgiving

All of this comes during Thanksgiving week. While I am sad, I know that my life is full of blessings.

  1. My wife, family, and friends have provided me with a circle of support and encouragement.
  2. This blog has encouraged people to reach out to us and shower us with love and hope. All of it is incredibly meaningful.
  3. We are blessed enough to be able to continue to pursue multiple rounds of IUI, both physically and financially.
  4. The doctor still feels the odds are in our favor.
  5. I know that God, and family members who have passed on too, are moving us forward to our divine destiny.

Closing Round 1

I know that this is only round 1, but the journey to get to this point has been years in the making. This has been emotional for us.

Writing this blog has been a journey for me learning how to be open and honest, rather than only letting people in slightly. I’m being candid through this because this it is only worth writing if it’s real. Perhaps you’ve gone through something similar, know someone who has, or will in the future. I hope this long post helps you to understand the journey of others.

Life isn’t always a pretty social media post. Sometimes, many times, life is messy. Thanks for sticking with us through our mess. Keep praying and sending good vibes. We love you all.