Twinfant Tuesday: What About the Older Children? Childcare During Childbirth

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We had returned from the hospital after receiving the most incredible news. In approximately six months’ time we were going to become the parents of twins! I was going to be a Mummy to four children!! We felt overwhelmed, excited, nervous, scared, and curious! I think I felt every emotion possible that afternoon.

Looking back to when I become pregnant with my first child, I remember my worries and concerns so clearly:

Was my baby healthy?

Was labour going to hurt?

Was I going to get fat?

What buggy? Cot? Bottles?

Seven years later as a pregnant mother of two children my concerns and worries could not have been more different. In addition to the health and wellbeing of my unborn babies, at the forefront of my mind were my two children and who was going to care for them when I was in hospital giving birth to our twins. I knew at that point that carrying twins meant that I was at increased chance of having a C-section. For me, that would mean a longer recovery time and the need to make extra arrangements for them.

Arranging the care of our older two children was our priority and it was something that we began to plan for more or less straight away.

These are my top tips for putting a plan into place for childcare during childbirth.

Make a List

We made a list of everyone who we could call on for help with the children if we needed too! At the top of our list were our parents. They would have been our first choice, but it just so happened that my in-laws were taking a holiday when the babies were born. My Mum works full time so was unable to take sole responsibility. We filled our list with Aunties, Uncles and Godparents.

We are lucky to have such a big family and support network, but as soon as we announced the news we were pregnant with multiples we were inundated with offers of help from friends and extended family members. We could have filled our list ten times over.

Have a Plan A and B, … C, D, E, and F

The morning I was due to be induced with the babies, we had everything figured out. The children knew exactly where they were staying, who was collecting them from school and nursery, who was driving them to their out of school clubs. I was happy, relaxed, and confident and ready to meet the two newest members of our family.

But I wasn’t induced on that day! They didn’t have enough room or enough staff in the hospital to perform a safe deliver. I didn’t end up giving birth until the following day!

Be prepared for every eventuality. Make sure your children and the people who are caring for them are aware that everything might not go to plan. I was due to be induced so I had an idea of when I was going to have my babies. Still, being pregnant with twins puts you at increased risk of premature delivery. The timing of your babies’ births could be very unpredictable.

I was lucky to get to nearly 38 weeks with my babies but many Mums of Multiples don’t make it that far. Having someone on the end of the phone that you could call upon at short notice or a neighbour who lives close by would be ideal.

Inform School and Nursery

Our daughter’s nursery was fantastic around the time the twins were born. She was able to do extra days at short notice and we were able to collect her later during my pregnancy when appointments at the hospital ran over. My son’s school showed the same support and helpfulness. After the babies were born, the sincere offers of help we received from school were a great comfort. Knowing they were there if we needed them was priceless, especially through those first few tricky weeks.

Be Prepared for a Caesarean Section

The chances of having a normal delivery compared to having a C-section with twins is around 50/50.

Even if, like me, you plan to have a normal delivery, making arrangements for someone else to do the school run and help out with your older children for at least six weeks following the birth is a necessity. I was lucky. I got to have the birth I wanted and was fit to drive and do the school run not long after. Still, my husband had previously rearranged all his working hours for those first six weeks to make sure he was on hand to do school runs and chauffeur our little ones to after school clubs.

We had lots of offers from our children’s friends’ parents, who were eager to help us out with school transportation. Sometimes even now I will get someone to come and sit with the babies whilst I quickly dash out to collect our little boy. Anything that makes life easier is a good thing!!

Prepare Your Older Children for Change

Having made a plan for the care of our children, I felt content and happy with knowing who was going to look after them. My other biggest concern was how my little boy and girl were feeling about the arrival of their new siblings. Our little girl had limited knowledge of what was going on.

She knew that mummy had a big belly and there were two babies living in there. I knew that their arrival was probably going to affect her just as much as much as our little boy, if not more. I couldn’t talk through her worries or her concerns about the situation as she didn’t fully understand.

We read a book called I’m Having Twins by Paris Morris.

I'm Having Twins by Paris Morris can help prepare your toddler for the arrival to two new babies.

It’s a book that tells the story of a family having twins from the perspective of the little girl. It’s a book I would definitely recommend. Both our children enjoyed it. It is aimed at children a little older than our then nearly-two-year-old but our daughter still loves the story 10 months after her twins’ birth!

Our little boy was initially really excited for the arrival of the twins but as my due day approached he expressed concern about how our life would continue as before. We were open and honest with him and explained that life was going to change, but in a positive way. Children are extremely resilient in the face of change.

Although we are always advised of this, as parents we can’t help but worry about the impact that huge life events are going to have on our little ones. As a parent who has already been through this, I can assure you that when your twin babies do arrive, your older children will adapt and they will take all the changes that there new siblings bring in their stride. In fact, less than 24 hours after the babies’ homecoming our eldest two children were more concerned with planning a trip to the park.

Kerry Shaw's older children adjusted remarkably quickly to the addition of two new babies to their family.

We’re ten months on from the birth of our babies. It’s very hard to imagine our life before. Our little girl, I’m sure, does not remember life before and our little boy is the most wonderful big brother. He absolutely adores his siblings and for a child that’s gone from been an only child to having three siblings in less than two years, his attitude and resilience to change is remarkable.

As for all the worrying I did, it was completely unnecessary. If I could give one piece of advice to every expectant mother, it would be to try not to worry. The children you already have will exhibit strength, resilience, and an ability to adapt to situations that really will have you beaming with pride. Maybe you’ll feel, as I do, as much pride in them as you have in yourself for giving birth to multiples!

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PSA for Pregnant MoMs: Listen to Your Body

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Colleen C shares her triplet birth story with the How Do You Do It? community. She’d like to remind expectant mothers of multiples to listen to their bodies.

I was scheduled for a C-section at 38 weeks, but only made it to 34 weeks with my triplets. Here’s the thing. I was so used to feeling huge and uncomfortable that I completely missed all the signs of labor for hours!

I’d spent the day, as usual, running around after my 8 year-old daughter. I’d gone to a PTA meeting, done the grocery shopping, and taken care of all the business that comes with having a school-age child. I dismissed the growing aches I felt as a sign that I was just overdoing it a bit.

At dinner time, my (then) husband looked at me and said, “Um… you don’t look so good. Maybe we should call the doctor?”.

I waved him off and said that I was fine, but he said, “No, you really don’t look good!”. He insisted on calling the doctor. I told him to ask if it was OK for me to take a Tylenol.

As he described my symptoms over the phone, my doctor said, “She’s in labor. Get her to the hospital!” I took the phone and said, “I can’t be in labor . . . I’m having a scheduled C-section!”, to which the doctor replied, “Change in plan! Stop being stubborn and go to the hospital!”

We got someone to watch our daughter, grabbed a suitcase and headed out from our Jersey suburb to our hospital in NYC, promptly getting stuck in a huge traffic jam. By this time, the labor pains had started ramping up, and we were starting to panic that the babies were going to come in the middle of the New Jersey Turnpike.

We eventually made it through, and when we arrived at the hospital, my doctor was already there—delivering another set of triplets! They prepped me to go as soon as the first mother was finished. It all turned out well, and the two of us new moms were next to each other in the recovery room, chatting away while they attended to all of our new babies.

The lesson: LISTEN TO YOUR BODY! The best-laid plans of doctors and modern medicine often change because Mother Nature has her own schedule. Don’t run around trying to be Wonder Woman, taking care of everyone else. Take care of yourself and your babies first. I wish that I’d paid closer attention. I would have gotten myself to the hospital hours sooner, instead of endangering myself and my babies.

I would have been a lot less stressed if I’d taken the time to hear what my body was telling me. Good luck to you, and God bless!

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Multiples in the Womb – National Geographic documentary

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As if we needed any proof that our multiples are miracles, National Geographic has a wonderful documentary about the life of multiples in utero. See 4D ultrasound of siblings interacting before they’re even born.

The In the Womb series also includes a video entirely about identical twins in the womb, which we just loved. Do be aware that there’s a scene in both films with a silhouette of the act of conception that you may want to skip through if you haven’t had The Talk yet. There are also diagrams of male and female anatomy. You may want to watch it all the way through without kids at least once.

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Full-Term Envy Finally Ending

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Being a Mother of Premature Infants

I’m a preemie mom. I have healthy, happy, smart, opinionated, confident, amazing 8-year-old daughters. They’ve overcome any challenges thrown their way because of their premature birth. They were incredibly healthy for their gestational age, and they were far from micro-preemies, being born at 33 weeks. And yet, I am and always will be a preemie mom.

Preemies shortly after birth compared to age 7 from hdydi.com

I have this enormous guilt at not having carried my daughters longer in my womb. I can’t help wondering if I could have given them just a few more days if I were taller or had gained more weight. Perhaps I could have gone on leave from work earlier and rested to prolong the pregnancy. My one job was give them a safe place to grow for 38-42 weeks, and I failed.

It’s not rational. I know that my daughters are above average in pretty much every area other than height. I know that 50% of twins are born prematurely, and I certainly wouldn’t give up having the both of them! More time in the womb might not have changed a thing. As my very wise 8-year-old M told me last week, “I am who I am because of everything in my life, including how I was born.” And I admit, I really like who she is.

Still, I suffer from what I call full-term envy.

Full-Term Envy

Every time I hear a pregnant woman wishing that the baby would come already because she’s uncomfortable, I want to tell her, “Do you know what I would have given to be that uncomfortable, just to give my babies a better start in life? Do you know how badly my neighbour, the micro-preemie mom, could have used 16 more weeks?” When I hear about the C-section scheduled around business priorities, I want to ask, “What if Baby just wants a little more time snuggled in there? What’s the rush?”

There’s a little stab in my chest when I hear about women reaching 34, 35, 36 weeks and farther in their pregnancies. I used to occasionally cry on hearing birth weights in the 6, 7 and 8 lb range. My daughters were only 3 lb 6 oz and 3 lb 9 oz at birth. And yet they’re here and healthy, and I know how fortunate I am.

Whole-Hearted Joy

Last week, something extraordinary happened. A dear friend asked me if I had any ideas on how to convince her son to make his way into the world… and full-term envy didn’t raise its ugly head. I felt compassion for her discomfort and shared her readiness to meet her son. I didn’t resent her full-term pregnancy. When I heard his 8 lb 1 oz birth weight a few days ago, I felt nothing but joy and a hunger to meet him and snuggle him and congratulate my friends.

I’m not sure why this baby is different. Perhaps it’s because I felt the loss of the miscarriage that came before him. Perhaps it’s because I found out that he would be joining us minutes after his mom learned that she was pregnant. Perhaps it’s because he feels like a brother to my daughters, who already love him as their own. Perhaps it’s because I was there every step of the way, seeing all the ways in which he took over Mommy’s body as he grew. Perhaps it was just knowing that his mom and her husband see my daughters as part of their family. They know M & J’s story, know the odds that they’ve beaten. My friend also knows the micro-preemie down the street, too, the 10-year-old bolt of energy who was born at 24 weeks and whose only long-term impact was on her eyesight.

I suspect that in experiencing the full breadth of my friend’s pregnancy as a witness, I healed the wounds from my own pregnancy being cut short. Maybe this little baby has vanquished my full-term envy.

What aspect of parenting to you feel envy about?

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Labour Bag Essentials – For Twins

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I originally posted this on my own blog after finally finding all my lists and lists of baby notes I made when I was pregnant. I decided to document this list in the hopes that it might be useful to other mommies out there. 

With twins, your chances of going into premature labour rises considerably. So once you reach the seven-month milestone, it might be a good idea to pack your hospital bag and have it ready to go at a moment’s notice. Here’s a list of the items you will need before, during and after delivery for both you and your newborn babies.

Paperwork

Get a file together with written dividers, giving you quick access to the exact paperwork you need This will not only make it fast and easy for you, but also for your partner while you have your hands full with the babies. Paperwork could include any or all of the following;

files

  • Your Id book
  • Hospital Registration Forms
  • Medical Aid card
  • Medical Aid Pre-authorization papers
  • Medical Aid Beneficiary addition papers for both babies
  • Multiple copies of your birthing plan
  • A page with your baby’s names and correct spelling
  • List of people to call

Also leave space for any paperwork you receive from the doctors, hospital, specialists, etc. This could include bills, prescriptions, birth certificates, etc.

Entertainment

This is not only for the hours you will spend in-between feedings and not being able to sleep but also for your partner’s sanity while you rest or feed your little ones. Remember to include chargers for all electronic devices even if they claim to last for days.

entertainment

  • Phone
  • Camera
  • IPad / E-Reader
  • Magazines
  • Novels
  • Baby/Parenting Books

Soothing Items

We all have those specific items that no matter what’s going on, will just take us to our happy place. Take things that will sooth you in the event of both a natural and a C-section birth.

soothing

  • Music
  • Your Favourite Snacks and Drinks
  • A picture of your kids at home (if applicable)
  • Lip Balm
  • Your favourite scented lotion
  • A soft pillow from home

Mommy’s Toiletries

With all the changes in your life, the best thing to do is to make yourself feel as comfortable as possible. Pack mini-versions of all your toiletries to save space, as you will only need a couple of days’ worth. Think of all the toiletries you use on a daily basis.

mommy toiletries

  • Facecloth
  • Toothbrush and Toothpaste
  • Shampoo and Conditioner
  • Shower Gel and Soap
  • Hairbrush, Hair Elastics and Clips
  • Lotion, Face cream, Hand cream
  • Deodorant and Underarm
  • Contact Lenses, Spectacles and Contact solution
  • Sanitary Pads for after the delivery
  • Nipple Cream and Disposable Breast Pads
  • Nail file
  • Hair dryer
  • An extra towel
  • A clock/watch to time contractions (and later for timing breastfeeding sessions)
  • Important medication, especially if you have a serious condition (make sure you inform/alert your doctor and the hospital staff)

Mommy’s Hospital clothes

The maternity ward is definitely not a fashion show, so this is the one time where you can put comfort first. Your body will be sore from both natural birth or C-section birth and the looser and lighter the clothing, the better.

HA0478 - Journey Planning. Lifestyle Images Portraying The Three Main Elements Of A Journey: Planning The Route, Travelling And Reaching Destination.

  • T-Shirts
  • Stretch Pants
  • Socks
  • Slippers
  • Flip-Flops for the shower
  • A Robe
  • Open-front pajamas for breastfeeding
  • Nursing Bra’s
  • Comfortable Underwear (High-waisted underwear in case of C-Section births)
  • Going home outfit
    • Keep it comfortable and pack a jacket and tekkies for incase.
    • You will still have a belly (it unfortunately doesn’t disappear overnight), so stick to your maternity wear.

Baby’s Toiletries

Most baby toiletries also come in convenient mini versions, so even though you might have an entire cupboard with huge 1litre bottles of baby shampoo at home, opt for the smaller versions in hospital to save space and make the trip to the nursery easier.

With twins, it’s only really the diapers, wipes and cotton balls that need to be doubled.

baby toiletries

  • +- 40 Diapers / per baby (2 large newborn packs)
    • With twins it’s important to pack both premature and newborn nappies due to the risk of premature labour.
  • 2 x Baby wipes (for sensitive skin)
  • Baby Bum Cream
  • 1 large pack Cotton Balls
  • Nail Clippers and/or Emery Board
  • Surgical Spirits (for navel care)
  • Mild Baby Soap
  • Baby Shampoo
  • Baby Powder
  • Baby Oil
  • Baby Lotion (preferably aqueous cream, fragrance free)
  • 4 or 5 baby towels (a hooded towel works best)
  • Petroleum jelly (to help remove meconium from baby’s bum)
  • 4 or more burp cloths
  • Infant colic drops
  • Infant saline nose drops

Baby’s Hospital Clothes and Gear

This is where packing for twins becomes a little different than packing for one baby.

So for those having only one baby, just halve what’s in this list.

baby clothing

  • 8 long-sleeved baby grows
  • 8 body vests (long- or short-sleeved according to season)
  • 8 pairs of baby socks (even in summer)
  • 2 beanies or warm baby hats (a baby can lose a lot of heat through his/her head)
  • 2 warm baby jackets or jerseys
  • 4 pre-mature long-sleeved baby grows
  • 4 pre-mature body vests (long- or short-sleeved according to season)
  • 6 receiving blankets
  • 2 warm baby blankets
  • 2 pacificiers/dummies (optional)
  • 2 newborn bottles + small tin of formula (even if you don’t plan to bottle feed, keep something ready as a backup)
  • Breast Pump and Accessories (if applicable)
  • Nursing Pillow
  • In case of planned bottle feeding
    • 4 or more bottles
    • 2 tins Formula
    • Bottle brush and detergent
    • Sterilizing equipment
    • Formula powder holder
    • Bibs
  • 2 Car Seats
    • Install the car seats before-hand, ensuring you know how to use them before placing baby in the seat.

Packing for your Partner

With all the hours of waiting and worrying about you and your newborn babies, it might be a nice touch to pack some essentials for your partner.

  • Toothbrush
  • Slippers
  • Extra Clothing (incase the babies mess on him)
  • Jacket
  • Snacks and Drinks
  • Money for the vending machine
  • Magazines
  • etc.

Nice to Have’s

These are certainly no necessary but might come in handy.

  • Spare cash and Change for vending machines, gift-store runs, etc.
  • Extra Bag for all those hospital goodies and gifts from family and friends
  • Journal and pen to jot down notes and questions for the doctors or to record feeding times and other details of your babies.

These items will help to make your hospital stay as comfortable as possible. Packing all the above items will also have you fully equipped for the first few days with your newborn babies. Some of these items could also be obtained from your hospital pharmacy, but do keep in mind that they run office hours before relying on that fact.

Each maternity ward have their own preferred list of necessities for you and your baby, so be sure to check with them before finalising your packing.

Christine is a first time mommy to two beautiful 17 month old twin boys that have recently started walking and are now running in all directions. She’s wife to her high-school sweetheart – the man of her dreams and also a full-time software/web developer in the financial industry.
She mostly blogs about their experiences with the twins in their daily lives adding some tips and tricks they learnt along the way.

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Candace and Chris, Continued: Our Misconception on Surrogacy

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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.

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Selective Reduction: Two Women, Two Views

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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 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.

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Kristin’s Story: From Endometriosis to IVF Quadruplets

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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.

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It Wasn’t Fair: The Road to Baby

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(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.

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