Candace and Chris, Continued: Our Misconception on Surrogacy

Candace and Chris shared with us some insight into the his- and her- emotions of infertility earlier this week.  Here, their story continues…

If someone would have told us last year, or ever, for that matter, in our 7 long years of struggling to conceive that we would be using surrogacy as family building option, without a bat of an eye we would have said, “No way. No how.” Funny how life always seems to have those sudden rogue winds. It is that one unexpected burst that can have you sailing off course. Or maybe just maybe on the right course…

Before turning to IVF, 7 years ago we first tried the old fashioned way. You know, candlelight, good wine, soft jazz in the background. After dodging the questions by friends and family, we decided that the natural way was apparently not going to be our way. Due to some impatience and naïveté we adjusted the truth on how long we had been trying to conceive with the OB-GYN so we could rush into IUI treatments.  Naughty we know, but when you want something, the truth becomes kinda fuzzy.

So, here we go: IUI 1-Failed, IUI 2-Failed, IUI 3 with Clomid-Failed, Failed, Failed.

For those keeping track, at this point, we were at 6 failed IUIs and had been trying to conceive (truthfully) for 2 years. So, we did what any normal couple becoming increasingly desperate to start a family would do. We discussed kidney donation for fundraising purposes and rushed headlong into IVF.

We thought we did all the research we needed to do. Look at a few websites, grab a pamphlet, talk to someone that has done it before. We thought we were damn near experts. The doctors would tell us everything else we needed to know, right?  We even went as far as to go to 2 fertility clinics to get a second opinion. Man, we thought we were smart.

Commence IVF, or as we like to call it, hitting the iceberg.  All of our research was only the tip of what was truly laid in our path. That’s okay though, we had time to mull this over because the next daunting task was lots of painful testing to see what the hell was keeping us from producing our little bundle of joy. So, to streamline the story: screamingly painful tests, rushed training on how to administer injections (huge needles too!), sprinkle in 4 intermittent surgeries. Even with a significant number of great embryos, this approach failed … not once or twice … no, 6 times!

Candace and Chris of Our Misconception. They're expecting by gestational surrogate.

Remember that rogue wind I mentioned? The first burst was about a year ago when an MTV casting producer stumbled across our blog, Our Misconception. After hearing our story they asked us share our story on their show True LifeI’m Desperate to Have a Baby”. Not the most flattering of titles but not entirely inaccurate either.

Commence opening up every detail of our life as a childless, infertile couple. It was hard. Infertility is emotionally raw, painful and really touches on taboo topics that many don’t like to openly talk about. We took a leap of faith and exposed our needle-riddled journey with the world. We wanted others to know they were not alone in what they were experiencing. When we first started out we sat in silence not knowing if this is normal or why our bodies were broken. I mean, the ability to procreate is the most basic, primal and natural given ability right? We felt alone. Sharing our journey on camera gave us the opportunity to spread awareness, something we wish we had at the beginning of our path to parenthood.

The camera crew captured our last round of IVF, the news following it, and our pursuit to start adoption. Not all of this made it on the show, but they were there,cameras in tow, throughout our fight.

That is when the expected wind blew our way and threw us off the direction we had ‘thought’ was our destined one. Someone who we know had discovered through the electronic grapevine that is Facebook that we were adopting. Fate have it that she also had previously been a gestational carrier for another couple a few years prior. WOW, an option we thought was so far out of our reach. Really, before that point no one was willing to have cankles or additional stretch marks for the next 9 months for us. Not to mention how will we afford it? No nest egg, that was gone 4 IVF cycles ago, and we were under the misconception that only moguls and movie stars do surrogacy.

Surrogacy isn't out of reach!

It is amazing what reinstated hope and a little, OK, a lot of determination can do to help motivate you. We are well on our way after lots of fundraising, and now have a very pregnant gestational carrier. Surrogacy has given us a newfound hope, and we are eager to see what the future brings as we welcome our miracle into this world.

Follow Candace and Chris’ blog Our Misconception.

Watch MTV True Life: I’m Desperate to Have a Baby.


Infertility TalesThis post is part of Infertility Tales 2014, How Do You Do It?‘s series to raise awareness about infertility and its impact on families. Please take a moment to read through some of the personal stories of loss, pain, fertility treatments, and success.

Selective Reduction: Two Women, Two Views

In the world of infertility, while everyone is focused on shots and ultrasounds and the two-week-wait, there are some decisions that no one likes to talk about. What if I end up with multiples? What if the fetus/baby is sick? What if…

Selective reduction. Two women pregnant with 3 babies chose differently, and neither would have it any other way.A multitude of things cross the minds of women once they see the positive pregnancy test, but this one – this one is probably the most controversial of all. Selective reduction isn’t something society likes to talk about, but it’s a real thing. It’s a real conversation that happens in pretty much every high-risk OB’s office or with the mother carrying multiple babies.

So, in all fairness, and since multiples are a ‘risk-factor’ when undergoing fertility treatments, the HDYDI team decided that if it came up this week, we’d cover it. We’d share with you in a nonjudgmental way. We’d share so that others going down this path know that it IS something you’ll be asked about. That it IS something you need to think about – no matter what your decision ends up being. And that no one – NO ONE – can make that choice but you, and whatever your choice ends up being, that as fellow women, infertiles, moms, etc. – you will find someone that supports you.


In the Grey: Shelby’s Perspective

Shelby pf A Mother to OneShelby Van Voris is a public health consultant, author, and founder of A Mother to One, a website dedicated to support and information for women choosing selective reduction. She is the mother of a five-year-old, a military wife, and spends her free time traveling the world.

In the summer of 2008, I decided to terminate 2 of 3 fetuses in my womb. No, I didn’t walk into Starbucks and decide to walk into an abortion clinic following. It doesn’t work like that.

Here’s the how: During the spring of 2008, we opted to give IUI a try while my husband was deployed. Voilà, a positive pregnancy test! We were overjoyed beyond belief.

And then, two weeks later, this overwhelming joy was followed by one of the most terrifying moments of my life: a hysteria-inducing ultrasound that revealed three fetuses and caused my 6’4” RE’s face to turn a shade of white I’ve never seen. There’s nothing pretty about vomiting during a vaginal ultrasound, and the sheer terror that plagued me that day is not something easily forgotten.

I knew within moments of hearing, “There are three. We need to talk,” what I would do; my mind had been made up nearly two years prior in a what-if discussion with my husband. The risks were just too much for me to fathom: 40% rate of loss, average gestational age of 32 weeks and a 36% impairment rate.

I was one of the fortunate ones who knew what selective reduction (SR) was even was prior to beginning my fertility treatments. I called it “fertility’s ugly stepbrother;” it existed to clean up the messes fertility drugs caused. My end goal in fertility treatments was always one healthy child, and although the decision to move forward with SR didn’t come easily to me, I reduced from triplets to a singleton at 12 weeks gestation.

I’ve always been open and honest about discussing my SR in public. However, in discussing this choice, I have begun to notice I don’t fit in. The choice advocates aren’t sure how to respond; the pro-life advocates call it abortion; and women who have terminated for medical reasons fume that I would associate my choice with theirs, as I have a child and they do not.

The multiples community looks down on me as cowardly or selfish. From time to time I receive emails confirming this is true.

We, the selective reduction community, don’t fit in anywhere. I’ve had friends who worked at abortion clinics call the procedure “half an abortion” or a “partial abortion”. I’ve had family members suggest I could have adopted the other two fetuses to friends. There’s the always deeply loved “baby killer” moniker that won’t seem to cease, no matter how many times I explain fetal development and the statistics on triplet pregnancies.

Hence, the weird-grey-area of reproductive choice is where I’m comfortable, nearly six years post-procedure. I don’t feel the need to fit into a certain place or space in the world. The grey gives me comfort, knowing I’m inadvertently bridging the gap between the pro-choice and pro-life worlds. Selective reduction doesn’t fit anyone’s expectation on what choice means. When you fall into the grey, it causes this wormhole of stereotypes to occur: where does she belong, where does she fit, this choice makes me uncomfortable… My response: I am where I was meant to be.

Let me push the envelope on what you believe choice means, let me be the one who informs you that choice is not simply a means to an end. Choice can mean a means to a beginning. Choice led me to a very healthy, vivacious, beautiful child.

Confounded? You aren’t alone. These days women’s reproductive health issues are fodder for water cooler discussions at the office. Words like vagina, afterbirth and choice give way to fanaticism in ways that confound me.

I never thought discussing my pregnancy or my vagina would lead to a place wherein I find myself today: the creator of a community, the only life preserver women feel they have when faced with such a complex situation, and the only person willing to use their name and put a face to what selective reduction really is. But, here’s where I sit: a happy mom, who provides support and doesn’t apologize for our decision to terminate two fetuses.

My life is one that will never get uncomplicated. I am a strong-willed woman, born by a strong-willed woman, and I have my own strong-willed daughter. I come from a long line of women who choose to push envelopes. These days, I’m not trying to push them; I want to burn their very existence. I may make you uncomfortable, as the very idea of opting to terminate two of three fetuses in a pregnancy can be disquieting. The grey is that last puzzle piece that can’t be forced to fit into the slot you want it to. We are the puzzle piece left over, and we’re comfortable with that.

You might be reading this asking yourself a lot of questions. Why did she terminate two of three and not one of three? Does she feel bad? Does she question her choice? The answers to those questions are complex and not exactly easy to answer. I made a choice, just as you make choices: how many embryos to put in, whether or not to continue multiples, choosing a donor for sperm/eggs. They’re all choices.

I am a mother, just as you are or will be. And I want the best for my child and for my family at any cost. My question back to you is this: are we really so different, then? We’re just parents or future parents, making the best decisions for our families. Perhaps there’s no line delineating us after all.


 The Aftermath of NOT Reducing: Angela’s Perspective

Angela Bickford headshotAngela Bickford is the mother of triplets, one of whom passed away after 49 days. After three years of infertility, and her subsequent loss, Angela has made it her mission to help other moms going through similar struggles. She works for the non-profit, Hand to Hold, which supports the preemie/NICU/loss parent, and writes about surviving after loss on her personal blog.

When it came time to have ‘that’ conversation with our doctor, I knew what was coming. I’m a type-A, worry-about-it-all, see-the-missing-tile type person who’s already experienced three years of trying and several miscarriages. Part of me felt it would be the ‘smart’ choice, and part of me just wanted the miracle of three, healthy babies.

Deep down, I wasn’t really that conflicted. I knew that I could never reduce – not because of my faith or whether or not it was acceptable – but because I’ve always wanted to be a mom and with it taking so long to get to this point, I wasn’t letting any of them go.

So my husband and I said a quick ‘no’ and moved on. We didn’t need to hear the risks, we wanted all three.

At 14 weeks, a cerclage was placed to help ensure they’d stay cooking longer. At 21.5 weeks along, I was placed on home bed rest with the beginnings of incompetent cervix and told that Baby A was at the most risk. This is when my self-doubt started to creep in.

The second-guessing. The what-ifs. And, of course, it was too late to revisit that conversation… (side note: it wouldn’t have changed anything, but it’s important to note that even after making my decision, my mind still wondered.)

At 23.5 weeks, I landed in the hospital and continued my bed rest there. Eventually, Baby A’s water broke (11 days in), but the babies didn’t make their entrance for another 19 days. All sick. All needing resuscitation. All near death.

It was day-by-day and minute-by-minute. It was a lot of what-ifs and second-guessing. Wondering how we could have done things differently or if the outcome would have been different if we had.

Because, in the end, we lost Baby A – Carter – because that risk – that real risk they talk about in that conversation no one wants to have – it won.

I guess I share all this to say that even though I didn’t personally choose to reduce, I still didn’t get my happy ending. Could reducing have made for an easier pregnancy? Could it have helped my other two stay cooking longer and ultimately be free of the lasting effects of prematurity they have today?

I’ll never know. But what I do know… is that I made a decision. It may not have been a decision someone else would have made, but I own it, and I’m okay with the way it ended up.


Two women, two views. Different outcomes, same question.

We’d like to end by saying that every situation is different – every pregnancy, every woman, every uterus. In life, in the hardest of situations, you have to step up and do what you feel led to do. And we challenge you to put yourself out there and see the other side… to have compassion for someone you may not know for the decisions they make that are not yours to make, whether you agree with them or not. To love and support your friend through their struggle to make this decision and make sure they know you’ll be there on the other side. Because everyone deserves support. Everyone deserves at least that.


Infertility TalesThis post is part of Infertility Tales 2014, How Do You Do It?‘s series to raise awareness about infertility and its impact on families. Please take a moment to read through some of the personal stories of loss, pain, fertility treatments, and success.

Kristin’s Story: From Endometriosis to IVF Quadruplets

This story was submitted by reader Kristin.

KristinG2I met my husband in an area of Illinois known as the Quad Cities. We were both working at a TV station. I was a reporter. He worked behind the scenes in production. We were friends for a long time and then a romance blossomed.

When we married in 2001 we knew we wanted to have children, but we didn’t want them right away. By this time we were living in Ohio and working in a town that had been suffering from a lockout at a major employer. Morale throughout the town was low and we had no desire to begin our family in this particular area. We moved to Michigan in 2002, became homeowners and knew we were ready to start our family. If only it were that simple.

During a “routine” check up with my new OB/GYN it became clear that something wasn’t right. The doctor told me I either had ovarian cysts, endometriosis or ovarian cancer. Having lost my mother to breast cancer about a year before this check up, I felt myself slipping into panic mode.

Not cancer. Surely it can’t be cancer. Fortunately it wasn’t, but it turns out endometriosis is no walk in the park.

Endometriosis occurs when tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus (the endometrium) grows outside your uterus. In endometriosis, displaced endometrial tissue continues to act as it normally would. It thickens, breaks down and bleeds with each menstrual cycle. Because this displaced tissue has no way to exit your body, it becomes trapped. Surrounding tissue can become irritated, eventually developing scar tissue and adhesions.

Growing up, my friends always complained about how bad their menstrual cramps were. Mine were ridiculously painful, but I just assumed all females had at least one day of the month where their cramps were so bad they didn’t want to move. My lower back would ache all through my cycle.

On the advice of the obstetrician I had laproscopic surgery to remove the buildup of scar tissue caused by endometriosis. One year later I was no closer to being pregnant and we were referred to a Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE).

Endrometriosis to Quads. Infertility with a happy ending!

I went through yet another laproscopic surgery to remove the scar tissue that had built up during our year of trying to become pregnant on our own. Then we turned to Intrauterine Insemination (IUI). Fortunately, our insurance covered most of the tests and medication leading up to each IUI attempt. After three failed IUIs the RE told us In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) was probably our best chance at conceiving.

It took us time to decide what to do. We knew IVF would be expensive. We knew there were no guarantees. We had already started exploring adoption and had attended an initial meeting with an agency that works with other agencies outside the United States.

In the end, I decided to give IVF one go. I didn’t want to live with the “what ifs” of not doing it. The process leading up to the actual embryo transfer was brutal. The hormones made me a mess. I was either in tears or yelling at people. I had night sweats from the medications. One of medications had to be injected in my lower back/hip area, so my husband, who hates needles, had to give me the shot.

Like IUI, the majority of tests and medication leading up to the embryo transfer were covered by insurance. But there were other expenses to consider… the 2 ½ hour drive to the clinic for every appointment, the hotel room we had to stay in the night before the IVF procedure and the cost of the embryo transfer.

When my embryos were removed to be fertilized there were three viable ones. All along the plan had been to transfer two embryos. On the day of transfer the RE recommended transferring all three because the third one likely would not survive being frozen and thawed. He pointed out that this would increase our chance of multiples, but said the chance of triplets was slim. We transferred all three and then played the waiting game.

After the transfer I spent three days on bed rest, bored out of my mind, hoping to never spend this many days in a row in bed ever again. About a week after the transfer I went in for a blood test and then the call came. I was pregnant!!!! Don’t ask me what else was said in that phone conversation. I know the nurse said my hormone levels were high, but I can’t tell you the number. I focused on the important part of that phone call… I was pregnant!!!!

Three weeks into the pregnancy I became very ill. I can’t call it Morning Sickness because it was All Day, Round the Clock Sickness. This coincided with my first follow up with the RE. On the way to the appointment I told my husband we should be prepared for twins because of how fast and hard my Morning Sickness came in. (I realize this may in no way be a sign of multiples, but my skills of logic and reasoning were severely distorted due to constantly vomiting).

At the appointment the woman who did the ultrasound didn’t initially point the screen in a way that I could see it. A funny look crossed her face. “How many embryos did we transfer?” she asked. My heart sank. I knew she was going to tell us something was horribly wrong. She left to get the RE. He came in, looked at the screen and said “Yep, four heartbeats.” Four? Yes, four heartbeats. I would love to tell you my husband and I had some epic freak out or spouted profound words of wisdom but really, we didn’t say much, although we smiled a lot.

Three embryos transferred and four heartbeats? That’s right. One of our embryos split into two viable embryos, going on to become the identical pair among our otherwise fraternal quadruplets.

Becoming pregnant was just the beginning of the story. I was diagnosed with severe hyperemesis and was put on bed rest 5 weeks into the pregnancy. For most of the pregnancy I would go to the hospital every other day for IV fluids. Luckily I only spent one week of the pregnancy on hospital bed rest. At that point I begged my obstetrician to admit me because I couldn’t even keep down Twizzlers. Fortunately, after a week of round the clock fluids in the hospital I was able to go back to my own bed, where I would spend the duration of the pregnancy.

Our plan was to get to 32 weeks. My water broke at 28 weeks and 2 days and four teeny tiny wonderful girls began the fight of their lives. They weighed between 1 ½ pounds and 2 pounds at birth. Two girls left the NICU after 63 days. A third came home after 74 days and the fourth one finally left the NICU after 89 days.

These quadruplet sisters were born at 28 weeks.

Here we are 8 years later and I know I am truly blessed. I have four amazing daughters and a husband who is an equal partner in raising them. When diapers needed changed he would do it. We both worked during their first year of life so he readily took on some of the overnight feedings. Even now he pitches in to make school lunches or help with homework. This life would not work if we were not both on board.

8 year old quadruplet sisters. You'd never guess they were born at 28 weeks and spents months in the NICU!

It annoys my husband to no end when people ask how we ended up with quadruplets. I get his annoyance. It’s really no one’s business. But I’ve found more often than not after I answer I tend to find myself talking to someone with similar struggles. If I can lend an ear or a shoulder to cry on to another woman or couple struggling with infertility, then I do what I can.

Keep in mind as you contemplate my story, it could have had a much different ending. The area where my husband and I met was originally called The Quint Cities!


Infertility TalesThis post is part of Infertility Tales 2014, How Do You Do It?‘s series to raise awareness about infertility and its impact on families. Please take a moment to read through some of the personal stories of loss, pain, fertility treatments, and success.

It Wasn’t Fair: The Road to Baby

(This post was submitted anonymously.)

When we first got married, we knew we both wanted kids. We knew we would be great parents. We just weren’t ready yet. The day would come, but in our early(ish) 20s, we wanted to enjoy the time that was just the two of us.

About a year later, a co-worker of mine got pregnant (as often happens with teachers) and I began to imagine what it would be like for us to have a little one. It was the first time that I really wanted a child, and I realized I was ready. While I was ready for the little one in my arms, I didn’t really like the idea of having my blood drawn every month (I was deathly afraid of needles and I had never had my blood drawn). I didn’t want the morning sickness. I was feeling icky about the idea of something growing inside me and kicking me from the inside. But still, the urge was there.

Later in the year, at a wedding of two of our dear friends, I spent time with the most adorable 1 year old, and I knew this was something I wanted. Really wanted. My poor husband was left thinking, “Wait, we were going to wait until we were 30, and we are only 25! Why did you change our plans?”

We talked and I knew that although we both still really wanted kids in the future, the time wasn’t right. So, given the choice between baby and dog, we chose a dog.

Well, in the fall of 2011, the urge for a child was still there for me, and it kept getting stronger. My husband and I talked often, and he understood my want and need, but he wasn’t ready for that commitment yet. I really have so much respect for him for standing up to my emotional fits and sighs upon seeing an adorable baby, a great nursery on Pinterest, or a happy pregnant lady. We decided that we would start trying during the summer of 2012. That would mean we would have our child in the spring of 2013, the perfect timing for a teacher. I would have my maternity leave, and then it would be summer! Plus, I would have my morning sickness during the summer months before school started.

We started trying in May 2012. We thought we would be totally fertile and get pregnant right away. In June, I got really sick and I was nauseous all the time, especially in the morning. I was sure I was pregnant. I went to the doctor, and she thought I was too. She started explaining (knowing how afraid I was of needles) that she would have to draw blood to test. For the first time, I was more than happy for that needle.

I got the call back the next day. Negative. She had no idea why I was so sick, prescribed me some nausea pills, and told me to contact her again soon if it didn’t go away.

Once the school year ended, the nausea went away sometimes. Some days it would be so intense that I would stay in bed most of the day, and some days it was bearable and I could have a normal summer crafting day.

Then my grandfather died. The nausea stayed away, but this was a grief that I had not experienced before. I struggled so much with this loss. When I found out that I wasn’t pregnant, once again, just a couple of weeks after his death, I could hardly bear it. I was hoping for a life to grow inside of me to help honor my papa. Instead, I felt that there was more death around us.

As the new school year started up again, the nausea came back. I started losing weight as I didn’t feel like eating. I had my endoscopy, x-rays, ultrasounds, allergy testing. Nothing definitive pinpointed the nausea. I realized in about October that it was gone. I didn’t have it anymore. I still have no idea what it was, nor do my doctors.

In October, we started to be concerned that I still wasn’t pregnant. I was no longer sick. I was at a really healthy weight again, I looked great, I felt great, but I wasn’t pregnant. We thought that maybe it was the stress from the past school year, being sick, and my grandfather’s death that prevented the pregnancy. I went to see my doctor. She confirmed that I was healthy and would have no problems getting pregnant. It was just 5 months of trying, after all. “Be patient. Relax. Stop worrying. It will happen for you. Come and see me again if you are not pregnant after 1 year. In the meantime, I’m sure I will see you next month with a positive pregnancy test.”

So, one more month of trying. One more month of negative tests. Since the summer, I had been charting my BBT (basal body temperature), peeing on a stick to find out when I was ovulating, and many other weird methods to make sure I was going to have the most success possible. Something just didn’t feel right. We were sure I was going to get pregnant right away! So why wasn’t I pregnant?

So, in November, we contacted a fertility doctor. I was surprised that I didn’t need a referral to see him. I just made an appointment (the earliest he would be able to see us would be January 17). Then, the most magnificent news came: he could see us for our initial visit on December 4! I felt like our luck was going to turn around.

On the day of the appointment, we were a bundle of nerves (mine were on the surface, as my emotions always are, and my husband was able to hide his nervousness). In this 2-hour consultation, the doctor talked to us about the difficulties of getting pregnant for normal people, checked me out (through an vaginal ultrasound), and then discussed all of the options for us. We found that, although we are both young and healthy, there were some issues which would make it hard for us to get pregnant. In the effort of keeping privacy, I will not go into those details, but it was difficult to hear. We were seemingly healthy! Our doctor said so! But we still had some other issues which would make getting pregnant difficult. Not just difficult, but near impossible. We were told we would have a 5% chance of getting pregnant without IVF (in vitro fertilization). That was really, really hard to hear.

This wasn’t fair! We had a loving relationship. We adored each other and our families. My friends were getting pregnant, having babies, enjoying their new families. Where was ours? Why were we given the short straw when so many others could get pregnant just by looking at each other?!

So, thus began the start of the emotional mood swings. If we thought it was tough over the summer, it was nothing compared to what was ahead of us. We lived in 2 Week Waits: trying to get pregnant and then waiting to see if I was pregnant (and repeat).

In December, after we found out about our fertility problems, we quickly started on our Road to Baby. The first step was to try and help jumpstart my ovulation by taking Clomid. (One of my issues was that I needed make sure that I was actually ovulating and releasing eggs.) December was the first month that I took this. Holy mood swings! Still, if it could help me get pregnant, that was worth it!

That first month, we had a few other tests done, including blood tests, a sperm analysis (immediate and 24-hour), post-coital test (to see if my body allowed the sperm to live or if it were a “hostile environment”), an HSG x-ray to check if my tubes were clear, and ultrasounds throughout the process. This is when we were told that Clomid alone wouldn’t do any good and we needed to look to take other measures, most likely IVF with ICSI (intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection). We were heartbroken to hear this, but then we picked ourselves up and moved forward. While we were saving money to do IVF, we decided that we would try 3 months of IUI, take a month off, and then do IVF. We were hopeful that it could work. After all, it is said that the 3 months after the HSG x-ray, the woman is most fertile (the dye helps clean out the tubes).

One other thing that my doctor did to help was to put me on medicine for hypothyroidism. We didn’t find out until about a year later that I actually didn’t have hypothyroidism, but there was a new thought in the medical world that by manipulating the thyroid levels, it could improve fertility.

January: the first month of IUI. Clomid, watching with BBT and ovulation predictor kits, and IUI when I showed a positive test.

Then we waited 2 weeks. Then we took a test. Negative.

We picked ourselves up and tried again.

February: the second month of IUI. Clomid, watching with BBT and ovulation predictor kits, and IUI when I showed a positive test. We thought that we were probably about a day or two late, so we weren’t holding our breath.

2 week wait. Took a test. Negative.

March: the last month of IUI. We knew in our hearts that this month wouldn’t be successful either, so we were looking towards IVF in May. Our fertility doctor decided that he wanted to try a different course of medicines. My husband was taught how to give me injections of Follistem in my stomach. The doctor had me come in every morning for ultrasounds to check my follicles (numbers and sizes). We found that I had about 5 mature follicles, all racing to be The First to release the egg. Then, once I ovulated and we did IUI, I stared on estrogen patches and progesterone suppositories for two weeks. At the time of the IUI, we figured that I had released 2-3 eggs, which gave a much better chance at one of them becoming fertilized. The estrogen and progesterone was only done to help our chances of implantation.

Two weeks later, I woke up on the day that my prescriptions for the estrogen and progesterone supplements were up. I knew that I had to take a test to see if I was pregnant or call in to continue the prescriptions. I peed on a stick. I went to lay down again with the stick on the side table. I looked over once the time was up. Two lines. TWO LINES! I had never seen that before.

As soon as the office opened up, I called my doctor to tell them about the test. They ordered a blood test for us with a rush order for results. We raced over to the lab, then waited 2 hours, then got our answer. I was pregnant!!!! We got a congrats and then an appointment for 3 weeks afterwards for my first ultrasound.

I stopped taking my birth control pills in January 2012. We started officially trying in May 2012. I got my first positive in April 2013. Amazing.

Collection of Parenting Book Reviews from a Parenting Book Lover

I was so excited when Sadia thought we should do a week of parenting book reviews here on HDYDI. I love reading books, and especially good parenting books. I will be reading all the reviews my fellow authors will be sharing in the hopes of finding my next parenting book to pick up!

What's Up FagansOn my blog I have written several parenting book reviews, and I’d though I’d share a little blurb about each one (with a link to the full review on What’s up Fagans?) instead of reposting each one separately. Also, my personal affiliate links are used in this post.

Pregnancy and Birth Books

In one post I reviewed the six different pregnancy and birth books listed above, giving them all letter grades (for your convenience). I was researching and reading about natural childbirth at the time as I was preparing for the birth of my singleton. I desperately wanted to have a VBAC, and since I hadn’t actually experienced labor with my twins, I wanted to learn what to expect and how to handle it.

Beating Bed Rest

Our very own Angela gave me a copy of her Beating Bed Rest book which, had I ever been on bed rest, would have been a godsend! I am grateful for her honest perspective on something, that frankly, isn’t talked about at nearly the depth it should be in pregnancy books!

Christian/Religious Parenting Books

The Christian Parenting Handbook

I reviewed this book on my blog as part of the book’s launch week, and also shared about it on HDYDI that week as well. But, I do think it is one of my favorite parenting books. Despite being Christian-based, the principles apply to all sound-minded parents, no matter what religion. And the book isn’t judgmental, but very encouraging, helping you do more than just behavior modification. It’s helping you do heart modification. And that is what great parenting should really be about!

Together: Growing Appetites for God

I haven’t written a review of this book, though I’ve always meant to. This book is about how one mother decides that she is going to get her kids into the word of God by reading aloud, straight from the Bible (and not a Children’s version), cover to cover. She sets realistic expectations for it, leaving room for sick days, weekends, and vacations, and plots a course of finishing the Bible in… seven years. Yes, she calculated that it would take that long. Thankfully, it took only three (I think?). I loved her honest recounts of how it went, and how her family grew through the experience. I have tried numerous times to do this with my family, but usually only last a week or two, so I find this book inspiring!

Standing for Something

While not quite a “parenting book,” this book is all about 10 neglected virtues in our society and how we can reestablish them in our society and in our homes. I read this book when my kids were not even a year, but it’s a great book that gives us hope of great things yet to come, even in a world that too often seem amoral.

Other Parenting Books

Into the Minds of Babes: How Screen Time Affects Children from Birth to Age 5

This is a great book that I think all parents should read! Some parents drive themselves batty over the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation that children under two have NO screen time, at all. This book, written by a mom, is well researched, but easy to read and understand. It helps dispel some myths and shared light on bigger issues than focused TV watching.

Cleaning House: A Mom’s 12-Month Experiment to Rid Her House of Entitlement

This is a great parenting book, especially if you have fallen into the rut of believing that it is just easier to do everything yourself, instead of waiting for your child to do whatever chore. Each month this mom conquered a new entitlement and kept building from it. She repeated over and over again how she wished she would’ve started it much sooner, when her kids were younger, as the oldest one was the most resistant to some of her changes. In my review, I reflect on how I was raised (which things I was “entitled to” and which things I definitely wasn’t) and what I love about this book!

Every Natural Fact: Five Seasons of Open-Air Parenting

This book is definitely different from most parenting books. The author takes a very reflective role instead of an authoritarian role, sharing and reminiscing about her son growing up. They often go walking in nature, learning about various life, but also strengthening their relationship. It’s a beautiful little read.

1-2-3 Magic:Effective Discipline for Young Kids

This book will be given a proper book review for HDYDI later today, but I wanted to share my review on this parenting book. Since reading this and many other books, I am on the fence sometimes about time-outs. I use them, but I really use them sparingly now (my twins are almost four). But, the thing I still think about from this book is the “Little Adult Syndrome!” I cannot tell you how many times I need to remind myself that they are kids, they cannot reason like me. Helps me keep things in perspective and not get so upset with my kids.

Have you read any of these books?

ldskatelyn is a stay at home mom of almost 4yo fraternal g/g twins and an almost 1yo baby boy. She loves reading books, especially parenting books! She writes all about her family and her simple life in Indianapolis over at What’s up Fagans?

Advice for Pregnant MoMs

You’ve just found out you are pregnant… and with twins! Congratulations! So many thoughts must be racing through your head. Are there really TWO of them in there? How did this happen? What does this mean? Can I still have a natural birth? What if they come early? Do we need to get a bigger car, bigger house? How are we going to PAY for TWO babies at once?

OMG what are we going to do?!?!?

Relax. You are in good company. We’ve all been through it, that’s why we are blogging about it now. It’s been a tough road for many of us, but hey who said raising kids was going to be easy?

If you are new parents, you will be evenly matched. If you already have an older child… well… better prepare your house for battle because YOU WILL BE OUTNUMBERED!

Here’s what you can do.

  1. Arm Yourself With Knowledge

    Read up on books which will help you prepare for twin mommy-hood. You could buy them from your local bookstore or online, borrow from a friend, get them second hand or borrow from the library. Our local library has an online book reservation system which made it really handy to place books on hold. You get notified when the books are in and they store them on a special bookshelf near the entrance which makes it quick and easy to pick up. Plus you can renew books online. All you need is a library card, which is almost always free!

    Some of the books that a very thoughtful friend gave as a gift:
    • “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Twins” by Marc Weissbluth, MD
    • “Ready or Not” series on raising twins by Elizabeth Lyon

    Not-twin related but still very helpful books I borrowed from the library:
    • “What To Expect When You Are Expecting” – with a special section on multiples
    • “Secrets of the Baby Whisperer, How to Calm, Connect and Communicate with your baby” by Tracy Hogg
    • “The Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy” by Vicki Lovine
    • “Baby Bargains, Secrets to Saving 20% to 50% on baby furniture, gear, etc” by Denise & Alan Fields

  2. Register for Bootcamp

    Find a prenatal class offered in your area either by your municipality/county, hospital or local Multiple Births Association.

    We took a combination of classes. First, we signed up for a local prenatal classes which at the time were a series of evening classes led by a Registered Nurse (RN) from the Public Health department. Now unfortunately those courses are only offered online with an optional one day workshop at the local library.

    Once we found out we were having twins, we then signed up for the Multiple Births Families Association (www.MBFA.ca) “Multiple Expectations” prenatal course where we met other families in the same boat.

    Finally, I signed up for a special Breastfeeding Multiples session at the local Hospital to get some “hands-on” training with dolls. It sounds funny but you will need the practice. It’s less nerve wracking to position 2 dolls and not worry about dropping them than a pair of REAL babies!

  3. Make Allies

    Start building your network with some of the couples you met at these prenatal courses. Join your local Multiple Births Association to meet other families. If you live in Canada, check the Multiple Births Canada website to find a chapter near you. It’s worth the annual membership fee, especially for the first couple of years.

    Again, it may sound funny to some (“They have a twins club for you guys?”) but trust me, if you meet another twin mommy with multiples close to your age, you will want to exchange numbers and stay in touch! Many of these clubs also hold events like: summer picnics; holiday parties; meet and greets; and playdates.

    You can also join online communities such as right here on HDYDI to connect with other moms, either though Facebook groups or blogging websites. Great way to connect with MOMs across North America!

    Another great resource we have here in our city is Breastfeeding Buddies. It’s another program offered by the City of Ottawa’s Public Health department for new moms with babies under 6 months old where they pair you up with another mom who has successfully nursed her baby or babies. I was grateful to get a phone call every few days from my BF Buddy to ask how things were going and encourage me along. If it wasn’t for her, I would have given up well before my twins weaned themselves off around 9 months.

    Yes, this person is a stranger to you but sometimes you can be more candid speaking with someone you don’t know very well. Plus, these ladies are screened and trained by a Ottawa Public Health nurse on being discreet. They are there to offer advice, not pass judgement. Check your county’s Public Health department website for a similar program.

  4. Select Your Gear

    Many people, when having their first child, will buy things brand new or get items as gifts from families and friends. That is not always practical when you are preparing for multiples.

    So in addition to joining your local Multiple Births chapter for the events, attend their Mom-to-Mom consignment sales. At our local ‘Twice As Nice’ sale, we have scored new or nearly new snowsuits and winter boots, not to mention toys, nursery essentials and big ticket items like high chairs and toddler bed frames. For more details on what these “Twins Sales” are about and why they are so popular, check out details on our local sale website here.

    Before you go, make a list of what you need so you don’t get carried away with buying too much or too little. Luckily, you DON’T need two of everything.

  5. Stockpile Supplies for Survival

    The biggest expenses for babies in the first year are diapers and formula. Now is a great time to start stocking up on those essentials.

    You will be needing diapers until your babies are at least 2.5 years old. When shopping for diapers, it’s handy to do a quick calculation on the cost per diaper to know whether you are being ripped off or not. Each diaper can cost between 16 to 40 cents.

    If you are using formula, you may want to wait until you figure out what your baby can handle. Not every formula is the same. We found the liquid Similac which the hospital gave us was easily digested but the more inexpensive powder form was hard on them and causing constipation.

    So we switched to the iron-fortified President’s Choice* baby formula from our local grocery store which often came on sale for $12.99-$15.99 for a big tin. (regular price at the time was $19.99, compared with $32.99 for other leading brands) A second brand we found worked well was Heinz. Find a brand and stick to it.

    Since we were doing both breastmilk and formula, we went through one tin a week for the first few months. Then 1 tin every 4 days until our twins were able to take cow’s milk at one year old.

    *President’s Choice label is only available in Canada at our grocery food chain, Loblaws. Their products (including affordable gourmet food items) are worth the trip up north!

  6. Line Up The Troops

    Make note of all the well wishers in your life that offer help, whether they be neighbours, parents, siblings, other relatives, friends, or co-workers. If you are like me and have a hard time asking for or taking help, pray that your family and friends know you well enough to know when you need it. We are fortunate enough to have both sets of parents in town, helpful aunts and uncles, friends and neighbours. They all came over on a regular basis (daily or weekly) to help out in some way whether it was taking over the kitchen, folding laundry, bringing over food, and of course caring for the babies.

    Have a short list of people you can reach out to by phone. These are well wishes who want to be there for you but can’t physically due to distance and their own situations.

  7. Have a Gameplan

    Manage your expectations and logistics of what’s going to happen when the babies’ arrive. Is your house going to be a disaster or will you work yourself to the bone trying to keep it clean? Can you afford to get outside help for a short time to help maintain it?

    Will you allow visitors in the hospital and in the early days at home? If so, ask them to bring lunch, or grocery essentials like milk and eggs. Tell them to expect you to open the door in your pyjamas. Let them hold the babies while you go take a shower or a nap.

    Are the babies going to sleep in your bed, your room or in the nursery? In one crib or two? Upstairs or downstairs? (depending on whether mom can climb stairs in the early days)

    Is hubby going to stay home for a few days, weeks or months? Will you invite your folks to move in with you for a short while? When will you go back to work? Will you go back to work?

    If you are nursing, will you hire a lactation consultant to help you? Will you consent to a wellbaby visit by a Public Health Nurse, if this service is offered in your area? Read a previous post I wrote on how to survive the first three months with newborn twins.

Pregnant with twins? Relax. It's going to be great. from hdydi.comHopefully these tips and suggestions will help you organize your thoughts and figure out how to prepare for your upcoming bundles of joy. Most of all, DON’T PANIC! Soon, you will find yourself saying you “wouldn’t have it any other way”.

Ambereen lives in Canada with her husband and Boy/Girl twins. They survived the first 3 years of raising twins and lived to blog about it. Check out her blog at www.2cute.intiaz.com or tweet her at @2cuteblog.

Twin-Z Nursing Pillow

Twin Z Pillow Review - Doyle Dispatch

A few months ago, I discovered a wonderful website called Tomoson.com where bloggers can apply to review items. Based on your qualifications, you may receive the items that you applied for. Well, there are lots of cool gadgets, new products, books, and items to try and “win,” and I’ve been really fortunate to be selected to review the Twin Z Pillow!

Now, I will preface this post by saying that my twins hadn’t been born yet when I wrote this, so my review will be based on what I know so far. I did not receive any compensation for my review, other than the free product.

When I first heard about the Twin Z pillow, I was a little hesitant. All of the MOM (Moms of Multiples) sites and groups recommended the My Brest Friend Twins nursing pillow, as that is the leader on the market. As these are our first babies, I suffer from “First Time Mom-itis,” which is defined as wanting only what is best for your child(ren), no matter the cost or hassle. Still, when the Twin Z pillow popped up on Tomoson’s site, I applied to review it (hey, free is free!), and then I scoured the internet for information about it. What I found surprised me. I saw review after review of it, comparing it to the My Brest Friend Twins pillow… and the Twin Z came out waaaaaaaaaay ahead. So, why was My Brest Friend’s nursing pillow the leader in the market? My thought is that it has to be tied to marketing, advertising, and product placement in stores.

Score Count: 1 (for previous reviews)

When I found out I won the Twin Z pillow in yellow, I was overjoyed! I was even more shocked when I received it less than a week later. I love a company that has such amazingly fast shipping, as I also suffer from I-Want-It-Now Syndrome.

Score Count: 2 (+1 for quick shipping)

Now came the actual product. I was so happy that when I opened up the box, the pillow was already inside its own travel bag. It looks like great water-resistance material with a nice drawstring top. I can imagine that this will be handy for traveling and storing, to protect the pillow itself.

Twin Z Review - Doyle Dispatch

Score Count: 3 (+1 for a travel bag)

We then had to put the cover on the white pillow. The cover was a super-soft yellow minky fabric, although there are lots of different colors that you can choose for the covers on their website. You can also order extra covers for $35.99, which we will be doing. Adding the cover was a two-person job. You had to start at one end of the pillow and stuff-and-pull, stuff-and-pull. It was a really tight fit, and I couldn’t have done it without Tim’s help as well. We then found the holes where the straps weaved through, got them out, and velcro-ed the pillow cover closed. It was a tight fit, but it was perfect. I can see why they made it so tight, as it made sure to keep the shape of the pillow.

Twin Z Pillow - Doyle Dispatch

Score Count: 5 (+1 for fabric, +0 for adding the cover, +1 for look when finished

Next came trying it out! Again, I am still twincubating until the fall/winter, so I can’t actually try out breastfeeding the twins on the Twin Z, but I want to say how much I love it already. There are 4 uses for the Twin Z pillow: breastfeeding, bottle feeding, tummy time, and sitting up support. After actually seeing how sturdy the pillow is, I have no doubt that I will be using this pillow for every single one of those purposes.

Twin Z Pillow - Doyle Dispatch

The pillow is absolutely huge, and it is shaped like the letter M. Each of the “legs” is incredibly sturdy, yet it also can be manipulated and moved into different positions to accommodate the different uses. The clip helps keep it in its different positions. For breastfeeding or holding both babies, you would push the center “leg” up and use it as a back rest. I am actually sitting in it just like that as I write this, and it is heaven for my sore lower back! If you want to make sure the arms stay where you want them, you can clip the arms together. This is how I picture using the pillow the most, while I try to breastfeed both twins at once. With the “legs” clipped together, it brings your arms up to a good breastfeeding height, but with it unclipped, it puts the arms a little lower. I personally find it more comfortable to have my arms a little higher. I guess we will see what I like better with babies in my arms in a couple of months.

Twin Z Pillow - Doyle Dispatch

Score Count: 7 (+1 for breastfeeding options, +1 back support)

Unfortunately, I don’t have any babies to demonstrate the 3 other uses for the Twin Z, but I do want to show you some pictures from their website to illustrate how it can be used.

Twin Z Breastfeeding

The Twin Z used for bonding with the babies. Can’t you imagine a child using this as support to hold their new buddies?

Twin Z Bottle Feeding

Bottle feeding with the Twin-Z. This gives a great view of the backrest and the support that you would get.

Twin Z Bottles

This is how I imagine I would use the Twin Z to bottle feed the babies. This is shown without the “legs” clipped together. If the twins are smaller, you can clip the legs together to make sure there are smaller holes (so they don’t fall through).

Twin Z Tummy Time

Tummy time with the Twin Z!

Score Count: 11 (+1 tummy time, +1 bottle feeding option, +1 newborn/preemie size adjustment, +1 sitting up support- not pictured)

While the My Brest Friend Twin retails for $78, the Twin Z sells for $99.99 (which includes one cover). While the starting price is a little more, I just love love love the additional uses for the pillow after breastfeeding is over. I think that the additional $21 on the Twin Z is well-spent, given the additional purposes.

Score Count: 12 (+1 for affordability due to versatility)

So the final Score Count is 12/13, with the only negative being how you apply the cover to the pillow. Overall, I would highly recommend the Twin Z to a M.O.M. I absolutely LOVE the options available, and I feel like the different uses far outweigh the other options on the market.

It is also important to note the following about the Twin Z:

  • Made in the USA
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Foam Free
  • Lead Fee
  • No Chemicals Added
  • No Flame Retardants

If you want more information, please watch this video to showcase the Twin Z:

You can purchase the Twin Z pillow on their website: http://www.twinznursingpillow.com/, as well as see other pictures of the pillow in action. Like the Twin Z and just want more? Like Twin Z on Facebook.

6 thumbs up, Twin Z!

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

*Part of this post originally appeared on Dory’s blog “Doyle Dispatch.” To read more posts about Dory’s pregnancy and nursery decorating on her blog, you can see the list here.*

The Straight Tuck Talk

Worth it 

Almost 7 years ago I gave birth to two beautiful, identical twin boys. It was not an easy pregnancy. I had gotten so big, so fast, that I developed horrible sciatic pain that lasted almost 8 months. My cute little chunkers continued to grow at such a rapid pace that at around 7 months they cracked apart the front of my rib cage when I sneezed…like a wishbone. If that wasn’t enough, the docs threw me on bed-rest for the last 6 weeks, much of it in the hospital. Of course, because the boys were growing so hearty and healthy,I continued to tell myself (and many people reminded me) that all the pain and suffering was worth it.

At 36 weeks they took me off bed-rest and told me to walk around. Unfortunately, because the twins were putting so much weight on my pelvis floor, it was almost impossible to move my legs without someone giving me a slight nudge from behind. I’m not kidding when I say that people would literally point and shout obscenities my direction when I walked by. (Like I couldn’t hear them!) The last measurement of my waistline before my delivery was 65 inches…the height of an adult person.

This picture was taken the night before the twins were born.

When they were born they were both healthy and almost 6 lbs each. It was truly the proudest achievement of my entire life. Immediately, the boys took to breastfeeding like champs; I quickly lost all my pregnancy weight, and then some. However, what they left me were two lifetime badges of honor – one called Twin Skin, and the other Diastasis Recti.

The Truth Set Me Free 

TWIN SKIN is the term commonly used for the (twin) postpartum skin that has been stretched passed its ability to re-conform to its original, pre-stretched elasticity. It has lost all its collagen, resulting in saggy, wrinkly, loose-feeling skin usually surrounding the belly button. Think of a balloon. Now blow up that balloon as big as you can without popping it. Let it all out quickly and take a look at what you’ve got. That’s the general idea of what I have been left with for the last 7 years. What’s worse, the more weight I lost the more skin I gained! Often it was so uncomfortable, that when I sat down, folds of skin were literally in my lap.

DIASTASIS RECTI is a vertical separation between the two abdominal muscles that cover the front surface of the belly. Think again of a balloon, but this time it’s one of those long children’s party balloons. Now imagine it is blown up, nestled between the bottom of your breastbone and your belly button. For many, the more you try to “work it” off in the gym, additional damage is done; strain on the muscle causes the size of the “balloon” to increase as well. And yes, I even tried following the Tupler Technique to a “t”, but found it to be useless. After 2-3 years of trying everything, I finally had to admit what several PT’s had been telling me all along: there is no non-surgical correction for muscle laxity this severe.

Nope, not pregnant.  This was me a few weeks ago.

I know that this is hard to hear, especially if you’re struggling with this condition. People get focused on their boot camp routine, and are hopeful that reaching their fitness goals will alleviate the problem. For some, the issue may not be as severe as my own. But for me, in order to feel truly good about myself, I needed to accept that surgery was my only option. And to be honest, this acceptance set me free. For several years, I felt strong,healthy, fit and able to keep up with my kids, as well as reach my personal fitness goals. I wasn’t fixated on changing anything about my stomach. Basically, I just ignored it’s existence; deep down I knew that one day it would be gone.

The Double Standard

Over the years, I tried to open up to other moms about how disconnected I felt from my battle scars. I’ve talked about how, over time, they have left me feeling less feminine, less like myself, and sometimes even less human (trust me, s**t got weird). Unfortunately, some folks felt the need to compare my feelings of distress I have about my twin pregnancy, and the travesty it has made of my body, to the amount of love I have for my children.

“But, you wouldn’t trade anything in the world for those kids, right?”

“The more you love your kids, every day, the more you will accept this as just a part of being a mom.”

F**k that. I’m sick of feeling ashamed of wanting to look human again. Or feel that, for some reason, I need to be a martyr for my children and wear some sort of “badge of honor” in the shape of flabby skin on an inflated tummy. Of course I accept that this is one prospect that can happen to some moms. That said, I don’t have to love it, and I certainly don’t have to feel like a bad mom for wanting to change it. Sure, my kids are worth every worry-line and sleepless night, every ruined blouse and scratched coffee table, every ache and pain and scream of every second of birthing my darlings. But I AM WORTH SOMETHING as well.

So screw the paradoxical notion that makes moms believe they have to trade being a proud mama for wanting to reconnect with their body. Once I started to listen to my heart without criticism, without judgement, and without fear, I allowed myself to be hopeful of the possibility of change. Thinking about the prospect of ‘wiping the slate clean’ gave me hope, and made me feel happy.

Also, this may blow your mind, but I’m not someone with low self-esteem. I feel good about who I am and even what I look like. I feel even better about what my body has been able to accomplish! I celebrate it! But in all honestly, I also felt I owed it the rehab/repair it deserved, from all the hardship it’s endured.

7 Years Later.

So what was I waiting for?? When the twins were 5, heading off to kindergarten, my husband and I finally decided to have another baby. The pregnancy had minimal complications…wretched back pain, an over-due delivery… but WAY easier than the twins. It did, however, make the diastasis recti worse. The twin skin? Oh, I was tucking it into my tube socks by then! (A slight exaggeration of course, but check out the size of me with only ONE baby in there!)

my singleton pregnancy, after twins

With our family complete, and once I was done breastfeeding my little dude around 14 months, it was definitely time to do something about this mess.

The first step, finding the right doc, was a piece of cake. My neighbor had experienced the same procedure earlier in the year and she loved her surgeon. At my first consult, I was also pleasantly surprised. I was expecting a car-salesman type white man, with slicked-back hair and big, super bright teeth. Instead, I was greeted by a tall, middle-aged woman with a gentle smile and very nurturing demeanor. She answered all my questions thoroughly (I had a list of THIRTY TWO), and I soon felt confident that I had easily found the best plastic surgeon in town. I was so excited! Then, two days later, her gal sent me my estimated total cost. WOWZA! Are you sure I can’t just do more sit ups??

So let me again remind you that this is only MY STORY. Abdominoplasty might not be for everyone, and I will be the first to admit that its f’n expensive. No, your insurance company won’t pay for it. Trust me, I tried everything. We wrung our hands for quite some time trying to figure out how to obtain the loans possible to pay for the procedure. In the end, I am so happy that we did. Even with my most recent bouts of recovery-induced pain, I have no buyer’s remorse.

I Did It! 

This was major surgery, and of course when the time came, I was terrified. I listened to meditations every night leading up to the big day. I tried to stay off the internet, where I was bound to find endless stories of botched jobs and regret. My husband continued to remind me of my courage and the strength in my family’s support of me. I continued to remind myself that I was finally at the end of a long journey that began 7 years ago.

I am now on day 5 of recovery from a 2-part procedure that fixed both problems: abdominal plication (the muscle repair) and abnominoplasty (the tummy tuck). Seeing as I’m not a doctor, and chances are neither are you, we’ll keep the explanation short and simple. 1) She cut my abdomen open, from hip to hip. 2) Pulled and stitched my muscles back together vertically, down the middle of my belly. 3) Cut off all the unsightly loose skin. 4) Pulled the skin tight. 5) Lastly, stitched me back up, from hip to hip.

STILL Worth It? 

So, while I’m currently in the “thick of” recovery, now might be a good time to ask… Would I do it again? Absolutely. That said, it’s not for the faint of heart. It is taxing on your wallet, your body, and also your relationships. Over the next several weeks I will be more dependent on others that I am usually comfortable with (as is the case for most mothers, I’m sure).

Recovery is difficult. These past 5 days have not been easy, but every day is 100% better than the one before. While my husband holds down the fort with all three boys at home, I’ve had the luxury of camping out on my mother’s recliner … a poor-(wo)man’s medi-spa if you will. I’ve been told I’ll be on pain meds for at least 2 weeks, and possibly up walking around slowly in the next day or two. The real kicker is the amount of time I will need to resist picking up anything heavier than 10 lbs… 8-10 WEEKS. That means my needy, fussy toddler and I will have to come up with an arrangement that works for the both of us. But I’m confident we’ll get through it.

I knew I wasn’t alone (check out the comments on this photo for example) yet I still think many women feel that they are. Because of this, I thought it was best to go public with my experience and possibly help another mama gain some perspective and a bit of hope. Whatever you decide to do with your torn up tummy, don’t forget to love YOU. Allow yourself the grace to feel good about whatever decisions you make that will ultimately help you become your best self.

My brood.  Worth it.

Surviving Morning Sickness with Twins

Oh My Morning Sickness - The Doyle Dispatch

Well, in the first trimester since we announced that we were expecting TWINS, it seems like my body just said, “Ok, Dory! Congrats! The whole world knows. Now here comes the morning all-day sickness!” Life was a constant circle of feeling ok, feeling AWFUL, feeling ok, feeling AWFUL.

I tried everything. Here’s the run-down of my list, and my reaction to them. Pregnant ladies, I hope that some of these can help you:

  • Crackers: I have warned Tim that once I am through this phase, we will never again have Saltines in our home. I can’t stand the dryness, the aftertaste, the saltiness, or the crumbs. Unfortunately, they worked when I was seconds away from being sick. Sorry kids! No Saltines in the Doyle house for you!
  • Pressure bands: They work if you don’t wear them 24/7.
  • Ginger candy: I had a HUGE aversion after a couple of days of them.
  • Ginger gum: Surprisingly, I am fine with this still, despite my distaste for ginger candy.
  • Rice cakes: This was a suggestion from my doctor after I talked about my distaste for Saltines. I love them, and they help, although not as fast as the Dreaded Saltine.
  • Preggy Pops/Preggy Pop Drops/Sour Candies: These were a staple for the first few weeks of the nausea. I was going back to Babies R Us a couple of times a week! Just like the ginger candies, however, I developed a distaste for them all of a sudden. Pregnancy is weird!
  • Peppermint: The gum works great if I’m in a bind and can’t find my crackers. The tea left me feeling awful. The smell was great for a bit, and then the aversion started.
  • Keeping food in my stomach: Easier said than done when you want to feel okay, but the mere thought of food (or even seeing it on the TV) leaves you wanting to rush to the bathroom. Eventually, after the first truly dreadful week, I was able to keep some food in my stomach all day (just a little bit), and it helped.
  • Celery: This was one I hadn’t heard about, but I tried it after a friend suggested it. It actually was pretty helpful, but then I had some really bitter celery, and I didn’t want to eat it anymore. Maybe I’ll try to get some new ones and try it again!
  • Resting: Ah, both a blessing and a curse. After my first truly horrendous week of sickness (losing 4 pounds in 4 days, no food, scary dizzy spells, light-headedness, etc.) I took half-days at school. I would work in the mornings to help prepare my students for their testing, and then I would take the afternoons off to go home, try to get something to eat, and rest up to make it through the next day. I would also sit down whenever possible at work. Once I returned to full days, I would rush home at the end of the day to lie down. Rest helps, but there are some days when it gets to be too much, and Tim and I try to get me out and about. I am just praying I won’t be put on bed rest at the end of my pregnancy.
  • Lemons: Early on, I had a lemon that I would keep with me to smell when the other aromas got a little strong. Then, that stopped working so well. Lately, I’ve been able to carry the lemon around again as I’ve been trying to do more running around and errands. Of course, I look a little silly carrying a lemon in a plastic bag, but it works!
  • Popsicles: My one true miracle cure. I swear by them! It doesn’t matter what kind, but they are no short of amazing! I found this out on the day that I announced my pregnancy to my co-workers. We had popsicles in our faculty meeting, and I was close to being sick. I started eating the popsicle, and it was like the heavens opened up. Now, when I am “on the verge,” I rush to the freezer, grab a popsicle, and it takes everything away. I must have about 5-8 a day, but it gives me a burst of sugar (and much-needed calories… I’m still not gaining weight at 11 weeks), and it seems to mask my ever-heightened senses. On a good day, I can actually sit around smelly food, sucking on my popsicle, and I am okay. Weird, but worth it! Now, my students know where I keep the popsicles in the teacher’s lounge, and I will sometimes tell a student, “Quick, please go and get me one,” and they do! At least they know about the pregnancy (and the twins), so it helps when I am trying to teach with bright blue or purple teeth and lips.

So, mommas and mommas-to-be: have you tried any other tricks to battle the all-day sickness? I’m sure I’ve left some of the ones I’ve tried off the list. Leave a comment with any that you may have tried out!
*Part of this post originally appeared on Dory’s blog “Doyle Dispatch.” To read more posts about Dory’s pregnancy and nursery decorating on her blog, you can see the list here.*

Sad/Happy

I am 36 weeks pregnant. I have had a very healthy pregnancy, despite the concerns over us having twins. I see my OB and a high-risk doctor, and I have fantastic care with both offices. I have beaten the odds. My babies are doing great. I should be happy 100% of the time. I should be. When I think about my babies, I am. When I think about the struggles that so many others are going through, I just can’t be 100% happy.

Last Monday, we went in for our 35 week scan. The nurses looked at us in amazement as they looked at the ultrasounds. Heartbeats are perfect. Amniotic fluid is perfect. Both babies are practicing breathing. Then they hook me up to the monitors for 20 minutes to check their heartbeats further (to make sure they are raising and lowering as the babies move). The babies pass the NST (non-stress test) within minutes, although they keep me hooked up for the full 20 minutes anyway. The nurses can’t believe how successful a pregnancy I am having. Seriously, they stare at us because here we are at the HIGH RISK DOCTOR and we are showing signs that we are passing with flying colors. Last week, our doctor used the terms “gorgeous babies” and “hitting it out of the ballpark.” We are thrilled. They are sad that I am not delivering at their hospital, because they all want to come visit us. They are happy with our fairy-tale pregnancy, as I’m sure they don’t see many being a high-risk office.

I know that others are hurting, and it pulls me out of this dream land that I’m in. I really struggle with this mix of happiness and devastation.

My grandfather passed away last summer, and his twin brother passed away 6 months later, in February. To say that I was sad is an understatement. I had to learn how to function again without my grandfather. At least I had his twin brother as my surrogate. Losing him hurt in an entirely new way. The very next month, however, I got pregnant with our twins. Our family was in the depths of grief, yet my pregnancy and the idea of new life gave a bit of light, hope, help to recover out of the dark times.

positiveIt seems like life has a funny way of doing this. We are faced with horrific situations. Then something wonderful happens. Maybe not to us, but maybe to someone around us. It provides just a bit of light. It allows us to feel like maybe there is something positive that can happen in our lives too.

Maybe we are in such a dark place that we just can’t see it. We don’t want to see it. We aren’t ready to see it. That’s okay too. We will see the light when we are ready to. Until then, it’s okay.

Does that mean that those of us that have been privy to the light shouldn’t revel in it? I don’t know. I struggle with this daily. I want to be thrilled. And when I think of my babies, I really am thrilled. I can’t think of anything happier. But I do think of the sadness that others are feeling, and I do forget about my babies and my happiness. I do grieve. I do cry. I do want to be in that dark place too. But right now, I can’t. Right now, I have to be a mother and give these babies the best chance they can get. And that is by providing them a happy, light-filled surrounding for them to be born into.

Did I pay attention to the election this year? No, because I didn’t want to be brought down by the negative campaigns.

Do I watch the news about the devastation from the typhoon? No, as I can’t bear to hear about the loss of life as I am about to bring in two lives myself.

Can I bear to even watch Grey’s Anatomy? Barely, as I just can’t allow myself to witness that tear-jerker (even though I know they are only actors on a fictional TV show).

It doesn’t mean I don’t know they are happening. I know they are. I’m not completely shut off from the world. I know there is suffering. I know that so many friends and loved ones are suffering. So what do I do? Do I let myself be sad right now? Do I let myself be happy? Can I be both? I try to do both, and I struggle. I really do struggle. I wish I could just be 100% happy right now. I want to be for my two babies.

Life has both awful and glorious moments. If it were all terrible, we wouldn’t have a reason to face another day. If it were all incredible, we wouldn’t understand how magnificent those special moments are. Right now, my “job” is to provide a light-filled moment. I hide my achy back and sore hips. I take a shower every morning, straighten my hair, and sometimes even put on some makeup. I put on a big smile and am grateful for the gift of these babies that I have been given. I will provide the brightness for those around me, if they want it. It doesn’t mean that I am not struggling inside. I doesn’t mean that I am not hurting for them. I just know that I have allowed myself into that dark spot other times in my life. Now is my turn to help give relief to those that need it.

*You can read more about Dory on her family blog, “Doyle Dispatch.” To read more posts about Dory’s pregnancy and nursery decorating on her blog, you can see the list here.*