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Dear RaJenBabies,

What will you look like? What will your hair look like? How will your hands lay while you sleep? Will 10:00 p.m. still be your most active time? Will you have innies or outies? We’re about to start learning you, something we’ll continue to do over our lifetimes. And what eager students we are.

You see, around the time this post gets published, you’ll have had many a tender hand delivering you, measuring you, cleaning you, welcoming you to the outside world. It’ll be a lot of activity, much of it not so welcome as such a stark contrast to the cozy dark womb from which you grew.

I won’t be able to hold you right away, but Matou will. Her voice you’ve responded to for the last several months, her touch you’ve snuggled against. And you’ll know you are home.

And in the coming days, you’ll be tenderly cradled and lovingly gazed upon by other’s who have been a part in growing you. Some will do so in person, some will do so in thoughts and well wishes, some will do so in prayer. But not without all of them – family, friends, neighbors, our church – would we be where we are today.

RaJen Babies, welcome to our world.

Mommy and Matou

Dramatics are typically reserved for the Beloved’s family (don’t y’all go getting all upset about that – you know it’s true!), but my own Mother is giving them a run. Case in point:

me: “Mom, I was thinking maybe we should get a second pack-n-play, what do you think?”

mom: “Why?”

me: “Well, because the one we have is in our bedroom, and since the babies will be sleeping a lot, and because I don’t want to be cooped up in the bedroom, and because I don’t want to have to make up the bed every day, and because I don’t want visitors streaming into the bedroom, and because I don’t want to have to break it down and set it back up every day, I figured we could have one in the living room where the babies could nap, you know, change of scenery.”

mom: “Well, if you do that, buy it at a consignment store.”

me: “Oh, there is someone in my mothers-of-multiples group selling one for $35, so we’d do that if we got a second one.”

mom: “You could also just make a pallet on the floor. OH, BUT WAIT. THE DOGS.”

me: “What about them?”

mom: “Well, the dogs might chew the babies’ hands and feet off.” (clearly referring to this story).

In preparation for birthin’ babies and because my doctor had been insisting that I spend more time in bed with my feet up for the previous six weeks, I started working from home on March 31. See? I listen. Eventually.

And in return, that’s the day the itchies started. At first it was tolerable. But then it was flirting with annoying. So at my April 3 appointment, I mentioned it to my doctor. And she suggested I try an over-the-counter 1% hydrocortisone cream. I was already using Caladryl but found that drying agent in that was counterproductive to my daily-expanding belly.

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BellyShot at 36w0d.

IT WASN’T HELPING. By Sunday April 6, I was waking myself up in the night having scratched my belly raw, bleeding. At that point, the point beyond intolerable, I was trying Caladryl, 1% hydrocortisone, Aveeno bath wash, wet wash cloths, ice packs and prayer. Every two hours, twenty four hours a day. I was getting rare 5 minutes of relief in each section. I told the Beloved that I was demanding delivery.

So on Monday, April 7, at our doctor’s appointment, I mentioned the symptoms and then lifted my shirt. I ended up with nurses coming in JUST TO SEE THE CONDITION OF MY BELLY. We did the non-stress test monitoring, and thankfully, the RJBs were doing GREAT! But my blood pressure had crept up to 140/90 (no doubt in part due to the tension of the itchies). I actually cried at the doctor’s office. SO UNLIKE ME.

Doc thought it was PUPPPS. OR…my liver was shutting down. And I was all “Oh, that? no, that’s just my SANITY.” So she had some blood drawn. In the meantime, she gave me a prescription for a topical steroidal ointment, as well an oral 6-day pack steroid. The topical would pass through to the RJBs, but she told me that a low dose steroid, for a short period, would not harm them. Sure, I said, they’ll just come out 7 pounds, hairy, and talking. But I was willing to try anything if in return it meant that we kept them in the oven a little longer. We agreed, though, that we’d touch base again on Thursday, April 10, and if need be, we’d deliver on Friday, April 11.

On Tuesday, they called to tell me that we’d have to re-do the blood work because the lab didn’t prep the sample correctly. I still wasn’t feeling better. AT ALL. And every time I put that topical steroid on I felt guilty for giving the RJBs something after having gone this far without so much as a Tylenol for a headache.

In my day job, one of the things I do is risk management. And we’re in renewal period right now. And I’m in contact with brokers locally, and, through them, in negotiations with underwriters both domestically and overseas. People actually listen to me – CRAZY! Even our Counsel. So one would think that I could convince a 5’2″ physician to deliver me, right? Not so much. She was set on term delivery at 37 weeks. And, of course, so was I, provided she could get me some relief.

So I had to go in yesterday morning to have more blood drawn. Except by yesterday, I was actually feeling better. So my argument for delivery was not so compelling. I did, however, convince them to let me see the available doctor (mine isn’t in the clinic on Wednesday’s) and get my what-would-have-been today’s appointment out of the way to save me a trip. Agreed.

I’m happy to say I’ve been scratch-til-I-bleed-free for two days. Which equals a 1000% improvement over four days ago. Oh, it still itches and burns. But nothing some over-the-counter Sarna and Aveeno Anti-Itch lotion can’t handle to make it at least tolerable. I think after this morning, I’ve officially weaned myself off the topical steroid ointment and will only use it under acute circumstances. I saw my acupuncturist today, too – to “remove heat” and something about “the winds”. Um, ok, so long as it helps me stay off the topical steroid.

All I can say is that if I had known enemies, I wouldn’t wish this upon them. And bless those women who have to deal with more severe versions or those who do not get relief and go weeks with the condition. I experienced ten days of it and was prepared to deliver the RJBs myself if necessary.

Here’s a photo two days after I wasn’t itching/scratching as bad. And those aren’t stretch marks down there on the bottom of my belly, those are scratch/nail marks where blood has pooled at the surface. Like I said before, pregnancy ain’t all pretty.

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PUPPPS at 36w0d.

After some meds and relief, this is me in the final approach to delivery:

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36w0d after steroidal bliss.

Dear RaJenBabies,

This last week has been challenging. I’ve developed this rash-like itchiness that is called PUPPPS. I probably don’t let you sleep very well at night because I wake myself up, scratching my belly so much that it’s bleeding. At Monday’s doctor appointment, the doctor considered it severe enough to prescribe some medication and a stronger topical steroidal ointment. And although it’s not harming you, it really wears on me knowing that it’s passing through to you. We’re in the delicate time zone of between-36-and-37-weeks (37 Weeks is term for twins) and so this balancing, of trying to obtain relief for me while minimizing the impact to you is very tricky. Do we delivery you sooner because my blood pressure is creeping up? Or because the burning/itching is so intolerable? Or do we give me medications that pass to you, but in so doing gives you an opportunity to grow another golden 24 hours at a time? This is like walking a tightwire.

We’re taking it day-to-day now, though, and thankfully, today is a better day than yesterday was. And hopefully, tomorrow will be a better day than today. So that’s progress. And the greatest thing? The greatest thing is that the two of you are snug and doing well in the womb. All the more reason to continue baking you just a little longer.

I guess, these last days in my belly, it’s really hit me. Hit me that we’re about to be parents to you forever and ever. Hit me that life as me and Matou and the two of you know it will be forever altered. And we’re excited, and honestly, a little apprehensive. Not scared because we don’t want you on the outside, but because we want to be the best parents to you both, and yet, we have no instruction manual or experience.

We are so grateful that God has picked us to be your parents. Everything is so temporary. And we’re just blessed to borrow the miracles that are you during our time on Earth.

No matter what, we’ll be seeing you within the next seven to ten days, our little RaJen Creations.

There is so much we want to say to you, me and Matou. But I don’t think we’d recognize the words if they were blocking the stairs in all capitals and bright colors. But this we promise you, we are ever ready to shower you with love and affection. And that is a universal language.

Mommy and Matou

It seems like an eternity ago now, that I first mentioned we one day hoped to turn this downstairs bedroom into a nursery.  The picture below is what the room looked like for a VERY. LONG. TIME.

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And then, and then we got the best news ever: that we were pregnant – with twins.

I’m not sure how we came to the conclusion of what would be the nursery. It was really a work in progress. But not like work. We mainly spent time brainstorming how we would make the room a nursery without (a) spending too much money, or (b) well, spending too much money.  But first-things-first, the floor needed to be re-sealed as the builder had clearly done a poor job of doing so.  

After that, the first big decision was what color(s) to paint and how to decorate.  Did we want primary colors?  Not really.  We’re neutral/earth tones kinda gals.  Did we want “baby theme”?  And we thought for a long time that we would go with something more contemporary/modernish.  But after pricing that stuff out, we were like NO WAY, not when you are buying TIMES TWO.  That, and it’s BABIES so why not have something BABYISH in the NURSERY?

We first found some cute zoo/safari/animal crib bedding sets at Target that were on sale.  But we decided to return those and do something a little more, a little less, something.  

We agreed to go with something that would accommodate two girls or two boys or one of each. And then we walked into Pottery Barn Kids and found some really cute animal print bumpers for a steal of $33.99 each.  And because we got such a great deal, we also, several weeks later, after they were on sale, purchased two valences in the same print for $19.99.  

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It said Baby without screaming BABY.  We’ll save that for the RJBs. The colors were on the pastelish side, so this would make it easy to get solid crib sheets from just about anywhere, and be able to use them interchangeably on both cribs.  

Now that we had our color palette, we needed to decide on the walls.  So we went with a soft yellow. Unfortunately, the way I took these two photos with whatever settings the camera had, it hardly looks soft.  But hang with me a bit.  The Beloved taped the molding and began painting away.

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And I just have to say, what a splendid job The Beloved did!

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Around this time, we had made our decision on cribs:  safe, new, inexpensive.  Love those cute $400 cribs, but again, when you multiply times two, it just doesn’t make sense for a bed that won’t be used but for the blink of an eye.  We bought both our cribs, with the 10% multiples discount, for $179 each.  NOT TOO SHABBY.  The most expensive item in the room ended up being the rocker/glider.  But what we chose, and the material/color we chose, will last long past its days in the RJBs room. And well into the days where I’ll kick my feet up and make them massage my feet before dinner. Oh, wait, that was MY childhood.

It was time, though, to get rid of the plaid roman shade covering on the window, since it wasn’t going to go with the bedding or the valances that we had picked out. We had, by then, obtained the cribs and the rocker glider had been delivered. It just wasn’t all in it’s place. But here is The Beloved removing the hardware.  

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Soon thereafter, we purchased the rug.  It could have been expensive (in which case we would not have purchased it), but we had gift cards that brought the price down to a Target price or maybe even WallyMart but for the fact that we’ve been boycotting that place for three plus years.  Not only was the pricing right, but it MATCHED THE BEDDING.  Rock friggin’ on!

And rather than purchase new furniture, we made do with what we had: an old Ikea dresser became the RJBs dresser and on top we placed a changing pad for their changing station. And for additional storage, I purchased some $4.99 canvas cubes from Target that had a perfect fit in an entertainment center that one of my graduate school buddies gave me years back because she didn’t want to haul it back to Oregon.  And you know what Internet?  The tones and materials of the furniture DON’T MATCH EACH OTHER.  AND WE’RE STILL BREATHING!  

Just yesterday, the honeycomb room-darkening top-down, bottom-up shades were delivered.  And we paid for installation.  Because let’s face it, at 35 weeks and 5 days I’d practically be willing to outsource GOING TO THE BATHROOM.  Or Eating.  Or walking to the kitchen to refill my water mug.  And in all fairness, the Beloved has done so so so so so much already – Yesterday, ON HER DAY OFF, she took me to the doctor, picked up my prescription, went for a 4 mile run, vacuumed the house, watered the plants in front, took out the trash, took me to dinner, brought me an ice cream cone, put liners in the Diaper Champs, did two loads of laundry, and put the car seats into the car.  

Now?  Now we wait impatiently for the RJBs.

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This space leads to the postage-stamp sized back yard. It used to be the “office” area – where we kept the desk and my computer and one of the bookshelves, these items now in the guest room. You can see this through the blur that has been The Beloved during most of this pregnancy.

In this photo, she had sanded a section of the concrete floor and was prepping to re-stain. Obviously, this is taken prior to the space being cleared and re-distributed into the guest room.

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After the room had been re-stained and sealed, we put the desk back in this space to make room in the chaotic storage guest room for some of the baby shower items since the nursery, too, was still in disarray.

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And we thought about leaving it like that. But another thing I get from my genetic predisposition is to move furniture around more than necessary.   Plus, our home is shotgun style and we have homes on either side of us by the same builder, all of six feet separating the homes – so ambient light is a scarce commodity. And this space gets nice, warm natural light during the day so we started moving items from the nursery, some which we had purchased at our local area mothers of multiples garage sale, like the papasan swing and bouncer.

And as you can see, smack dab in the middle, is one of our dogs staking claim to the transforming space. Probably eye-balling the diaper champ, figuring a way to break into it when there’s yummy poopie diapers.

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And it was a decent start, but we really wanted to put an area rug down, something plushy enough for tummy time, but sturdy enough to withstand the ins-and-outs of being entry to an exterior door, something easy to clean, but also fun. And I don’t know about you, but have you priced out rugs? They are either way too expensive, way too fugly, or not in the color/pattern/size that you really want.

I had seen where Dooce had talked about how much she loved her modular rugs, so we ended up getting some samples of different textures and colors and decided on Stripe A Pose for its fun and whimsical colors.

Over time, I plan to hang pictures of the RJBs in this space, too. But for now, this is the end result.

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The guestroom didn’t change a whole lot.  But while The Beloved was restaining and sealing concrete floors, it became the storage/holding space as shown here…

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But after the floors were done, it was time to put things in some kind of order. Particularly since my mom was coming to stay my birthday weekend, and, well, the couch is horribly uncomfortable. So I started measuring stuff and making sure we could fit the items in the room.

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Especially the desk and bookshelf, because we now had other plans for that office space. And thankfully, everything would fit, albeit a tight fit. The final pictures are the result.

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This room has now gone from a guest room to a guest room slash office, albeit one without cable.  Who builds a house without a cable outlet in every room?  But this is just one of those things from the List Of Things To Do that didn’t get done.  Up there with Didn’t Get The Windows Cleaned or Didn’t Pressure Wash The Outside Stairs.   

Dear RaJenBabies,

Here we are: 35 weeks. Provided there are no unforeseen complications, we are past the NICU redzone, which would mean, hopefully, no extended stay there should you come soon. Thanks be to God.

Yesterday, Matou called me on her way to work and said “do you realize that we’re going to have two babies in 21 or less days?” Yep, it’s not long now, week-to-week, in fact.

RaJen at Easter Service
Matou and Mommy at Easter Service; photo courtesy of T. Garrison.

Tomorrow, we get to see you on the RJB-TV, possibly for the last time. So we plan to treasure those 30-40 minutes as we watch you move around in the womb. Because soon, you won’t be as well-contained or on low volume anymore. You know what else I’ll miss? Feeling you move around in my belly at all hours of the day and night. Lately, we can feel the true outlines of arms and elbows and knees and backs and heads. You are that big. And Matou and I spend time each evening just rubbing your noggin’s and patting your bums and telling you how much we love you.

NST

I know quarters are really tight in there, and I’m sorry for that. I mean, I’m so happy that you have grown so well, but I feel guilty that you are so smushed.

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Soon, when you are born, we’ll give you all the space you need to stretch and grow and explore this world. And as you grow up, we hope you will do that with confidence, knowing that Matou and me will always shelter you with our love and never be more than a held hand or a an encouraging word, or a hug away. Ever.

You have been conceived in prayer and you are so loved,

Mommy and Matou

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WANNA PLAY A GAME? We’ll send an iTunes giftcard to the person closest to both the RJBs birth date AND their birth weights – without going over, kinda like the Price Is Right. As a point of reference, at Week 32, Eagle was measuring 5lb1oz and Birdie was measuring 4lb8oz. Oh, and the scheduled c-section date is April 21 (37w4d), if we get that far. Good luck to the playa’sl

I come from a long line of Cleaners.  And it’s not just because we’re Mexicans and wired to do at least fifteen things at once.  At least I don’t think so? I can remember my mother would vacuum the house at the ungodly hour of 7:30 a.m.  On a Saturday.  During the summer.  While also cooking pork chops, eggs, and tortillas for breakfast.  And running load after load of laundry.  Maybe that’s why I sleep better with white noise. 

Looking back, I can see I started honing my organization skills at the ripe age of ten.  As a scientist for NORAD (in my play-believe game with a neighbor), we had a cold war game where we inevitably took a call from the President and subsequently had to bomb Russia. Before going home for dinner. And, dammit, I HAD to have a place to file away our consent documents.  So I made my own hanging file folder system out of coathangers and pipe cleaners.  Because my parents wouldn’t get me a filing cabinet.  AND MAYBE THAT’S BECAUSE I WAS TEN and they were trying to save us all from extra hours of therapy in my teen years.

I’m better now, thanks for asking.

But as organized as I was, I also kept things.  All kinds of things that I thought might be important one day.  Or that I didn’t take the time to trash then. It’s scary to open up my portable Sterilte time capsule and clean it out every once in a while.  Gives me a chance to reflect on things I thought were important, things that still are, and the wisdom to know the difference, Amen. 

I still have letters from boyfriends in middle school, i bet. Haven’t made it into that bin yet. The one where I keep letters my brother sent when he was deployed in Saudi Arabia during Desert Storm. Or the post-card one of my Young Life leaders sent me when I came out, telling me I was deliberately walking out of God’s will.

I finally threw away my “whiskers” sweatshirt from elementary school., the one i had hand-sewn patches onto from 1983 softball seasons.

Elementary Sweatshirt

I threw away my SAT scores (why I even kept them I don’t know, because the scores were horrible. Maybe that’s why i hung on – because I still miraculously got into college). I threw away the RFP document that I had peripherally worked on in graduate school to help bring a National Institute of Health grant for a Center of Excellence in Women’s Health to Tulane University Hospital and Clinic. I threw away my calendar. The one FROM MY SENIOR YEAR OF HIGH SCHOOL.

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I hung onto my “Locke Hill Lions Roar!” t-shirt from 5th grade graduation. The one signed by all my classmates that year. Maybe I’ll let it go next year. Not sure. I still have most of my function t-shirts from my Tri Delta sorority days in college. I wanted my mom to make a quilt out of them – because that’s what the other girls were having done around college graduation time. But now that’s like TWELVE YEARS AGO. And now I’m just in sorority purgatory.

As I’ve toned it down over the last few years to just slighly the crazy side of normal, the Beloved has evolved from the other direction. She comes from a long line of hunters and gathers – and it’s not just because she’s from south Louisiana – , sometimes bordering the species known as pack rats.  Gatherers and pilers and collectors.  Or at least that’s how it manifested itself in The Beloved. Which is fine, until the tragic mutation of don’t-like-to-get-rid-of-stuff-ers occurs.  It only took four years to convince her that we didn’t need to hang onto Coca-Cola bottles from yearsbegone. There were other things, but the mind has a way of blocking out travesties.

Now, we meet somewhere in the middle and call it domesticity.

But now we’re soon to be parents. And EVERYTHING changes.

And I can hear the nuclear power plants of my genetic pre-disposition powering up.  All systems go.  I’ve been in nesting mode. Have been for about the last 26 years. Except now I have an excuse to clean and purge. Can I just say I LOVE SELLING STUFF ON CRAIGSLIST? In the past, this has made The Beloved nervous, but I’ve successfully polluted her with clean/purge/make-ready air. And she has taken the to-do list and run with it. And it’s totally hot.

So over the next couple of days, I’ll intermittently post before-and-after pictures of three rooms of the house that have been transformed in preparation for the RJBs: the guest room, the play area (formerly the “office”), and the nursery. Visioning 50% me, 50% Beloved. Work 99% Beloved. Have I mentioned how incredible she’s been?

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Eat one of these 20 minutes before a Non-Stress Test to prevent your baby from being tasered.

More Photos!

The Aforementioned

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