I've been asked to be a monthly columnist in the Bay of Plenty Times Indulge magazine and in my first I introduce myself, so here we go...meet, well, me!Read More
Almost three and half years into this parenting gig and I’m still learning things every day. One of the biggest lessons I have learned is to not get caught up in what you “think motherhood should be like”. Those daydreams set me up to fail, hard. It’s the nitty gritty and often taboo topics around motherhood that people shy away from talking about, which is exactly what I did at the beginning of my motherhood journey. Looking back I wish I had the guts to talk to people about what was really going on, so here is a letter to myself full of truths that I would have loved to hear if I magically could turn back the clock.Read More
I had a follower snap me the other day asking about the "real" ins and outs of IVF. You can read all about the steps in all the pamphlets the doctors give you. But they can't tell you how you will feel, will you need care for your kids if you already have them, will you turn into a crazed psychopath on the hormones? That kind of information is harder to find. So I shared my experiences with her to help and thought that could be relevant to anyone else planning on going through IVF too. I know I wrote about my feelings and the emptional side of doing IVF but this delves a little deeper into the actual process, so if you want to know what to expect from someone without a medical degree the you have found the right place!Please note that everyone reacts differently to drugs and hormones, so this is entirely my experience with them and yours could be the polar opposite. The daily injections, this is I think a major fear for anyone starting fertility treatment, especially if you are afraid of them. I'm ok with needles but the thought of injecting myself really freaked me out. Jay of course offered to do it for me, but they need to be done at a certain time each day and didn't want to have to rely on him if he got stuck at work or something. So I sucked it up and injected myself, I worked myself up the first time and cried and cried but it actually didn't hurt. You grab some skin on your tummy between two fingers and inject into that fold of skin, it's such a small prick you won't really notice it. You do this everyday so to avoid getting sore by sound the same spot you kind of go in the shape of a 'smile' from one side of your tummy down and around to the other side. I definitely got some bruises and the places of injections can be a bit sore. The only ones I found to kind of hurt were the ones I had to take in the evening to stop ovulating for the last week or so (I'm so sorry but being over 3 years ago I can't remember their name and the finer details) but you had to mix the powder and water yourself to make the injection, a part I actually found fun pretending to be a doctor! These injections made the inception site feel kind of itchy and they would swell a bit more, but nothing major. So please don't worry too much, the injections were one of the easiest aspect of the whole thing.
Will these drugs make you a crazy person or gain weight? for me personally the later was true, I was the heaviest I have ever been when we did the removal of the eggs. However, I actually was super chill and "full of love" when I was taking the hormones. Which was the opposite to how I was when on Clomiphene aka a crazy lady who my husband really didn't like! I had heard horror stories online and in magazine articles of people feeling awful, sick, emotional un stable on ivy drugs but every actual person I know who has done it said they felt totally normal if not better than normal. So I can't promise you anything but I hope you don't end up being one of those people who said they literally could never face doing another round because of how ill they felt, that would suck! Anyway, our doctors told us I may feel really happy as the hormones can give you that lovey dovey feeling, and it did. Jay was very happy with a very loving and touchy feely wife! So yes there are bad sides, hey weight gain, but I found my mood was great. Once again, this is what happened with me, so no promises.
Blood work, more needles! Great! Every second day about a week after I started injecting I needed to get blood work taken so (I think) they could check my hormone levels and figure out when I would ovulate so they could time the harvest (that is a horrible word isn't it when thinking of your lady bits) of the eggs. This was the biggest pain for me as you had to go to a clinic to have this done, trying to fit this all in before work, when EVERYONE else has the same idea means some early starts! I imagine if you already have kids this will be the hard part since you an wrangle kids with a needle in your arm!
Scanning! So many bloody scans. Safe to say you get very used to having a probe up your vagina to scan your insides! Trust me, when they first pull this thing out it is a bit horrifying, especially if you have never had an internal scan before. You probably have had one to get to the stage of needing IVF, but nonetheless its quite confronting as it looks like a skinny dildo with a round ball on the top! It gets better, the doctor then places a condom on it and lube, I know it's for hygiene and to make things easier, but seriously it made me giggle/go bright red/clench my pelvic floor like I have never clenched it before. Even worse was the offering of shall he insert it or I!? I was DYING at this point, from a hilarity standpoint and embarrassment. I leave what option I chose up to your imagination...ok don't actually think about that, but we will leave some part of my life a mystery. Anyway off course there a little bit; the reason why they need to scan "from the inside" is they need to get a really good look at your ovaries to see how many Follicles you have. If you are like me you would have never heard of having Follicles in there, definitely didn't cover that in health class! We are born with hundreds of thousands of follicles in our ovaries and they basically hold an immature egg that matures and then is released into our uterus for fertilisation. The aim of the game with IVF is to get these suckers working in overdrive, so instead of only one follicle working it's magic like a usual cycle, they want you to grow as many follicles as possible. So during the scans this is what they are counting, to see how you are reacting to our hormones and to see how the follicles are coming along size wise. Basically, the bigger the follicle the more mature the egg, meaning it is ready to be harvested. To give you an idea when they are ready, the follicles reach 16-20mm then they are what they consider "mature" and your egg collection date will be set. So this is where I think my discomfort came towards the end of the cycle. I had 25 follicles so I had about 25 2cm large follicles hanging out in my ovaries, that's a lot more room big taken up than on your usual cycle! So I felt very bloated and my abdomen was tender to touch. If you have kids then this will be another thing that will be tough as I know how toddler love to crawl, kick, stand on their mamas!
Once those follicles are nice and big you take a trigger injection which makes your body prepare to release them, your extraction os scheduled exactly 12 hours after you take that shot. This is when they go in and remove all the eggs with (don't read the next paragraph if you are freaking out about this bit as I'm about to describe the thing they use to take them out)
It's another internal ultrasounds dildo but with a giant needle attached to it!
Ok safe now so you are given some sort of local and some happy drugs so you are a bit out of it but not knocked out. I have senile found out from a friend who had as many eggs as me they usually knock you out as its obvious more painful the more eggs you have to retrieve, no idea why I didn't get that option but hey I survived. I barely remember it but Jay said he was trying not to freak out watching it all go down. I'm glad they let your partner sit in with you, as it definitely helped calm my nerves. The whole process was over in 30 minutes and afterwards you have a nice cup of tea and a biscuit for another 30 minutes to check you are all fine.
You are told to take the rest of the day off work and that you will have cramping but they said most people can go to work the next day with pain relief. I woke up the next day and was quite sore, but that was to be expected with the amount of eggs we had taken out. I spent an extra day at home curled up on the couch with a hotter bottle but felt ok the next morning. If you are ding this with kids then I would try to organise some help or if you have family around maybe send them for a sleepover for a night or two.
Once they take the eggs that's when the baby making magic happens, not quite as romantic as in the bedroom but still so amazing. Wonders of modern medicine! We had to do ICSI, the step up from IVF. In IVF they pop the sperm in a dish with an egg and its a whose strongest wins scenario were one sperm fertilises the egg. In our case Jays swimmers can't even mange that, useless, so they choose the best looking sperm and injected them into all of the eggs.
The worst bit after this is waiting by the phone to hear how your eggs are doing. Even if they get a lot out not all of them are going to thrive. We ended up loosing 6 of this embryos as they just didn't develop like they should.
This is the time all that emotional stress comes, as you worry about the eggs and their development, then that ramps up even further during the transfer and the dreaded two-week wait till that pregnancy test!
The transfer is essentially a breeze in comparison. The hardest thing is you must have a full bladder, so you are lying on a table with your legs in the air desperately holding on why they place the fertilised embryo *well men was a 5 day fertilised egg so it's actually called a blastocyst) back in you! My doctor took 3 attempts to get it in there, he would insert the a catheter through your cervix and you would see little bubbles on the ultrasounds screen and that was the liquid holding the embryo entering your uterus. They check the catheter under a microscope to make sure the embryo left it, and mine bloody didn't. Three times in a row! He said he hadn't had that happen to him in 10 years!!!!! It had me worried but I as just desperate to get to the bathroom before I let go on in the examine room! I went and had acupuncture after the transfer as that's meant to help it "stick" and continue to develop in you. But other than instructions to not get really hot, as embryos don't like heat, so no intense physical activity, baths or spas you are told to do whatever makes you feel comfortable. If thats lay on a couch and rest that fine, but if you want to get back to work or do what you usually do in your day-to-day life then that is fine too. Walking around and doing normal daily activities won't make the egg not implant into your uterine wall. So don;t worry, you don't have to lay with your legs in the air and seeing on bed pans like they did with IVF in the 80s!
So that's that, this was the post on the in's and out's on IVF in our case. I wrote about my journey and all the feelings that came with it here, but after so many requests thought it would be good to share the stuff you can't read in a brochure. I hope it helps!
Leaving the hospital with twins in tow left me so relived, relieved I got to start normal life at home with my babies, relived to settle into life as a fully fledged family of four, relived to be able to sleep in the same bed as my husband, have home comforts and hopefully start falling in love and bonding big time with these babies who kind of bewildered me at that time! Basically I was desperate to leave (read my last hospital blog post here) and be done with NICU/PIN, but in reality I had no idea what I was really in for in the coming days, weeks or months...or when my fucking soul destroying vomiting would finish. Before I dive deep into this next blog, I just want to say that I know my last three blog posts; Pregnancy, My Birth Pt 1 & My Birth Pt2 have scared some people, especially those expecting twins. I just want to preface all of this that my pregnancy wasn't normal! Whilst being ill in the first trimester is common, it's not actually "normal" to be sick the entire time that's why Hyperemesis Gravdium is an illness. It fucking sucks, like it literally sucks the life out of you, I hated being pregnant. But please don't stress if you have just found out you are pregnant with twins that this will be what you will have to face too. You may, but more people won't than will. Also the whole difficult birth and not bonding thing...thats something I know a lot of people are scared about. Please don't let my experience scare you, I write about how I was feeling as I personally found I never heard anyone have an experience like mine. Which in turn made my difficulties bonding that much harder, I felt alone, like a failure, a bad mum and person all rolled into one. I'm writing about these experiences in the hope that I help even just one person realise that IS normal, you aren't a bad mum or any of the above if you don't instantly fall head over heels in love with your child. It can take time and that is FINE, trust me. So I'm sorry if those posts or what I'm about to cover does freak you out. It's not my intention, I just want to share, because by sharing these experiences we can all feel connected and realise that the feelings we are battling aren't uncommon. They are what make you human after all, we need to feel, even if it feels like it isn't the "right" feelings.
So where was I? Leaving hospital was scary but super exciting as it was our first steps back into normality, or our "new normal". We were warned the boys may be unsettled at home first as it would be quiet where they were used to a bright, busy and noisy hospital room. I hadn't done much reading on routines or books on what to do with a newborn, I just had the info I had been told in birthing class, by my midwives and from friends. I knew that I wanted the boys to learn how to self settle in a cot and that I should demand feed them to start with. I was super strict about not letting them always fall asleep on our chests as I didn't want them getting used to that while Jay was on leave and then in two weeks time leave me with two bloody babies that wanted to sleep on me 24/7. Wasn't happening on my watch!
Certain details are a bit of a blur in those first few weeks as I was still being sick once we got home. So much so that I had to take my newborn twins to the local A&E only two days after we got home, as I had pretty much not managed to keep anything down since we left the hospital. I was sitting on the couch, trying to breast feed all the while suddenly needing to de latch babies, throw (well not quite throw) them to Jay to hang my head over the toilet. I didn't want to expose my little prem men to all the bugs at A&E but I knew I could be there for a long time and I was exclusively BF and hadn't managed to pump enough milk off to feed them. In fact they hadn't even had a bottle yet. That was the main reason I went to A&E, I was super paranoid my milk would be compromised by the lack of food and liquids. ANNNNYWAY, I ended up spending a good 4 hours at A&E hooked up to multiple IV bags, all the while trying to breast feed the little dudes. It was misery, I as crying and in so much pain. The iv line hurt my arm and it was in the crook, so trying to hold the boys while BF made it worse. IV bags tend to make me freezing too, all the cold saline entering your veins . So I'm cold, in pain and trying to manage feeding two hungry, crying and un-settled babies in a curtained off cubicle for 4 hours. Not to mention I was exhausted and desperate to sleep. It sucked! Lucky the IV bags seemed to do the trick, it got me on the level enough that I could eat small things and over the next week that awful vomiting stopped. So finally, 2.5 weeks post birth I was done with being really aquainted with the toilet bowl.
We had our baby photo shoot for Woman's Day after a week at home, the boys were petty good and slept most of the time. I remember doing the interview and talking about how awesome the boys were and shedding a little tear. They wrote how I was emotional out of love and happiness during the interview, but in reality I was crying because everything I was saying didn't entirely match up. I felt like a fraud but I couldn't tell Jay let alone Woman's Day how I was feeling! I loved my kids because I knew they were something Jay and I created, but I wasn't in love with them yet and to be honest I didn't really like them yet, they were so demanding and I was still recovering and just so exhausted from everything. So far they hadn't added anything amazing to our lives like everyone said they would, they were in brutal honesty, being a big pain in the ass and I often called them "tiny little assholes" (hey sometimes I still do, but only when they are being very naughty). There were some serious moments of why did I want to do this again? When I read that article it makes me so sad, I look happy and I was I guess, but I really was playing the doting in love mum when in reality that wasn't how I was feeling. I went through all the motions, attended to every cry, cuddled them, told them I loved them but I knew it was all out of what I was meant to be doing instead of really wanting to. It's a very sad and hard time to think about.
After Jay went back to work my mum who wasn't working at the time came to help during the weekdays - and thank god, I couldn't have done it without her help! The boys had clicked into their collic and reflux stage (not that we had it diagnosed yet) and screamed constantly. They slept at most 40 minutes but often only 20 and then pretty much cried the entire wake time unless being held, but often that didn't work either. I remember mum being so shocked with how "hard" they were, not the sleepy child out newborns my brother and I and most babies are. We had borrowed a bassinet from a friend and I remember she put them both in their one day when they were crying, she was walking around swinging and rocking it by the handles trying to get them to quiet down to no avail. It was physically and emotionally draining both of us.
Once they were out of hospital they were on a two hourly fading schedule and they kept it for 16 weeks, day and night!! They never stretched their feeds out over night. It was gruelling! Every time I brought it up to a professional they said it was normal, maybe it is, but it was the worst thing for my mental health at the time and could have done with some advice on how to stretch their feeds out as everything I tried didn't work. I'm big on having my own space so having babies attached to both of my breasts pretty much all day and night was pretty intense for me. I just wanted a few hours each day that I could have a little bit of a physical "bubble" around me but that didn't happen. It could take an hour to tandem feed the twins and then an hour later they would want to be back on there again. Seriously? The night was the worst, you would finish feeding and go back to sleep for about 40 minutes if that. I would hear them cry again and wake up in a panic that I had fallen asleep with them in bed and that they were already on my chest. The 40 minutes naps throughout the night seriously felt like minutes. I was a zombie and Jay was really tired too as he helped me with the feeds at night. I'm so lucky to have a supportive husband who got up at every feed with me, I know a lot of dads don't but Jay saw that as an important thing he could do to help make my life easier where possible. The boys would wake, I would sit up and get my feeding pillow on/set up and he would bring the babies in one by one and help me position them in my tandem feeding position. He would then get back into bed and sleep, I would wake him once they were finished and we would both burp them. Jay would check/change their nappies and place them back in bed. If they needed settling then we would both get up and help them get back to sleep. It was a good little routine and I can't imagine surviving those first 16 weeks with 2 hourly feeding without him.
I was crying a lot at home and Jay was making small murmurings about being worried I had post natal depression, but I of course wrote it off saying it was normal and that I was just tired. I didn't want to tell him how I wasn't bonding as I felt like a failure and if you know me, I don't like to fail at anything! I'm quite stubborn. Typical Leo!
I remember the first time I really opened up to anyone about it was my friend Aja. She had a baby the same time as me and spent two weeks in NICU with me as her baby girl was in the cot next to the boys too. I guess I felt more comfortable sharing it with her as she understood the NICU side of things. I went for a coffee date at her house and remember bursting into tears when I spoke about the boys and how hard I found it. It was nice to let a bit of emotion out but I definitely didn't explain myself fully. I actually found it really hard to explain just how bad things were to anyone because, you wouldn't believe it...the few times we did go to mum catch ups with my friends the boys were pretty good. No more grizzly than your average baby! I think they all thought I was over exaggerating, or just couldn't comprehend it because they hadn't seen it yet.
Ah the crying, all day every day! This is at I think about a level 4 out of 10 with how they could get.
At 10 weeks someone finally said we should see a doctor about the crying and the vomiting. The boys were power chucking after meals and even an hour or two after one. No one previously had been worried about reflux as you usually don't put on weight when its bad, but my guys had been putting on 250-400g a week! I may have been having a hard time but apparently my milk was pure cream! But considering they had been feed two hourly 24/7 they bloody well should have been putting on weight! We went to Dr Liang and he diagnosed them both with Reflux and Collic. We were given Losec and a muscle relaxant we could give for the Collic. I think things got a little better over the next few weeks but nothing drastic that made me think either drug was working.
During all this poor Jay wasn't getting a look in, I couldn't give the boys what they needed emotionally, look after myself and give him the love and affection he needed either. I felt like I was pulled in a million different directions and just wanted to hide in a room by myself. I know some people may be reading this and thinking I need to suck it up, crying babies, no sleep, being covered in all sorts of liquids is normal when you have a new baby. I get that, but this was bad and I was falling apart emotionally. I was caring for the boys perfectly well and they essentially were thriving in the terms that they were gaining weight, were healthy other than the reflux etc but I was not thriving, I felt like my light was slowly been put out! It really didn't help when I would mention to people how hard it was and they would just say my boys were beautiful, amazing a blessing etc. I knew all that, but I felt like my feelings weren't being recognised and that in turn made it even harder for me to share them. It was very frustrating! I had some moments where I had to put the boys in their cot and walk outside for 5 minutes as their incessant screams had me at breaking point. It was like torture, I swear when they are really grizzly now and have a bad day and cry a lot its like I go straight back to that time when they were little. It's like post traumatic stress disorder, I instantly tense up and feel sick. It's an ongoing battle I have trying to calm myself, breathe and realise I'm not in that space anymore. One day while my mum was away on holiday my Plunket nurse came for a home visit and the boys were screaming and had ben for hours, I was a wreck with bloodshot and swollen eyes from crying just as much as them. I even have memories of yelling back at them and screaming "I can scream louder than you, shut up!". Not my finest moments and make me very sad when I think back on them. Luckily I had an amazing Plunket nurse and she arrange for a nice lady from some public service (can't remember what one) to come watch boys for 4 hours while I slept one day. Thanks Barbara!
At 18 weeks everything came to a head, I was in a Plunket visit and mum was there helping. They ask you all these questions like what is your baby doing, does he smile, at you, do you play blah blah blah and I just burst into tears and pretty much bawled. Ah this makes me cry writing this. I finally admitted that was a walking zombie and was having a really hard time bonding, I admitted I didn't think I loved my children because all I could think about was them screaming at me, constantly needing to be feed, vomiting all over me and them not sleeping. I was an emotional, exhausted, wreck and a bit of a shell of who I was. During my meltdown I could see the look of shock on my mums face, she had been with me every day and had no idea. I had done a really good job of playing the part obviously. It was agreed mum would take the boys for a few days so I could rest and talk about how I was feeling with Jay and just generally try to see if getting some rest would make me feel better. It was really nice to have a few days to myself and to sleep! I even went for a ride with Jay on his motorbike, something we used to love doing together pre babies. It did help me feel a little better as I wasn't so tired anymore, but I almost felt worse that my mum could look after my babies for 48hours herself where I was still too scared to do that/ didn't think I could cope on my own like that yet. You can't win right?
As I have mentioned before I'm a battler, so I got stuck back into parenting and did my best to look like I was doing well. I remember taking my first trip with the boys out of the house by myself, getting them in capsules, clipping them in, going to a mall and setting up the pram and getting them all in there. I was super proud as when I had given birth I was petrified of ever having to get out of the house with them by myself and had no idea how I could even manage it! It seemed so scary, which is funny looking back on that now as it's just part of life and something I don't even think about being an issue anymore. I was definitely starting to bond with the boys and that was getting better daily, but I still was filled with anxiety and questioned how good at this whole parenting thing I was. I felt a disconnect between me and my new life as a mum. Jay finally spoke to someone who had suffered PND and she recommended I talk to a therapist who specialised in the area. I started seeing her and she recommended I start taking anti depressant's, I don't know why but I didn't feel comfortable taking them. I know they help so many people but I wanted to see how I felt after seeing her for a little longer before going down that route. I saw the therapist for 6 weeks and it really made a huge difference to my mental health. She said I was suffering post natal situational distress and anxiety rather than depression from a chemical inbalance. Basically all of this was happening because motherhood hadn't lived up to what it should've in my head, first was the emergency birth, the hospital stay, being so sick still, and then babies that were un well and screamed all day. She told me it was perfectly normal to not bond straight away with a tiny human who just took from you all day as well as screamed in your face the entire time. Having someone validate my feelings, help me see them from a different view point and make me realise I'm not crazy made me feel so much better, just having someone sympathise and understand instead of instantly trying to turn it around into a positive like "well aren't you lucky to have two beautiful babies" and other comments like that helped so much. She taught me it was OK to only be slowly falling in love and bonding with my babies. I knew now this was going to be a slow burn and I was ok with that. I now knew that it was actually normal to feel this way and many mothers do. It's not all rainbows and lollipops like some mothers feel (lucky them!) and that one day I would wake up and realise my heart is so full with love that I wouldn't be able to remember quite how it felt to not love them. I was going to be alright and I realised with her help that talking about it made me feel so much better. I finally felt strong enough to share with people my dirty secrets like not liking my children, feeling like I was failing and that I wasn't going to survive this mother hood gig. I got such an outpouring of love and support it was amazing. If only I did this earlier?
It's funny because as soon as I told people how I was really doing then everyone stepped up their game to support me and they suddenly really saw what I had been talking about, they were tough work. My mum went away on holiday so my friends would come help often, especially my friend Jamie who would come most afternoons to help me with witching hours, I was so grateful and it was really amazing for their bond as they love her so much as they spent a lot of time together. Whenever Julia came over for Sydney she would get up in the mornings with them to give us sleep ins. My friend Emma came over with her mother in law one time and the boys were just upset and crying the whole time, I ditched the kids with them for ten minutes so I could hang all my washing up outside. I came back in and you could really see the reality of what my day-to-day life had dawned upon them. It was nice for people to finally see and understand why I had been in a tailspin.
By the time the boys hit 6 months a lot of the reflux and colic symptoms had started to dwindle, thank the fucking lord/higher power/ energy whatever you want to call it. They still were waking a few times a night and were adamant cat nappers ( even Dorothy Waide couldn't crack them to make them slip longer than 40 minutes!) but I was learning to deal with it. We even managed to take a family trip to America to visit my brother and Grandma who lives in San Diego, the boys travelled super well and there weren't too many meltdown moments on the trip. My mum even watched the boys overnight so we could go stay in a hotel alone and have some time out together. Dreamy. Have you worked out by now how amazing my mum is?
I think by 6 months I was really starting to bond with the boys and my heart was slowly being filled to the brim with love for them. Gosh it was such a relief to wake up and feel that one day. It's what I had been waiting for since I was pregnant and felt that disconnect / anger at them for making me feel so awful.
6 months to a year we got the hang of our new schedule, I was coping much better and really loving being a twin mum after all that shit we went through in the first 6 months of their lives. The boys started sleeping through at 10 months, although they were and still are early risers. I actually think I started nailing it, I was on top of everything, the boys were happier as they weren't in as much pain anymore, I was getting out of the house and managing to catch up with my friends. Life was good. It's funny how feeling like I was doing a great job really helped with my mental health, I was suddenly confident in my self, my abilities and my parenting. I have a very relaxed style to parenting now and I think that is what helped me get through everything in the end. The only thing I'm strict about is nap time/bed time routine, otherwise I am very go with the flow. It made life easier being able to let go of the little things when something went wrong or not to plan, which lets face it, always happens with twins! Hitting that one year milestone was the best, we had a big party to celebrate as we wanted to celebrate their lives but also thank all the people it took to get us to that point. We also wanted a bit of a night out to congratulate ourselves too. It was such a special day and I couldn't believe how far we had come as a family unit. I always say if their were cracks that were going to show in my relationship with Jay it would have been during that first year, and none did. We never had a big fight about everything that was going on, and Jay was pretty good about me wanting my own space after the boys went to bed at night. I was just so sick of having two people cling to me all day that by 7pm I wanted to sit on the couch and not have another much larger human wanting to cling to me too. Poor Jay got bugger all sex that first year. I know he felt neglected and intimacy is what makes him feel loved, but I just couldn't get my mojo back for a long time, it was the last thing I wanted and actually made me feel really un comfortable, and to be honest, it's not the same it was pre pregnancy even now! Sorry babe! But we are so good. We have such a great foundation and those tough times really made us realise we can handle anything together, as long as we tackle it as a team. I'm a very lucky woman to have a man like Jay, he seriously is one of a kind. Ask any of my friends and they know he is a really special man.
So that's that, a small (seriously I know this seems long but there are so many other ups and downs I could write about, but don't want to bore you all!) snap shot of us settling into twin life. I didn't cover too much about breastfeeding, sleep training, learning to settle babies and all of that nitty gritty stuff, as it would make this the longest post ever. So I will save that for their own posts if that is something you would like to read about? Comment below with anything you really want me to cover/know about and I will try and blog about them for you.
Thanks for reading these stories about my IVF journey, pregnancy, birth, hospital stay and our new normal life with twins. It's been really hard to re-live and lots of tears have been shed over my keyboard, but It was great to get it all down and share that having a hard time, like I did, is normal too. Don't worry, you will get there! I look at my boys today and I could just about cry with how much I love them, when at the start I could cry with how much I didn't feel that bond. So chin up, keep on doing what you are doing, talk to your loved ones and you too will wake up one day and everything would have changed for the better.
Let's pick up where we left off. I thought I had wet the bed early in the morning but no, it was JUST my waters breaking! These little boys had finally kept their promise of arriving early at 34 weeks since they had been threatening to arrive since I was 30 weeks! Shit I was nervous even though I had actually been so ready for them to come out. I was over the intense pain, I was over the constant vomiting, reflux and sleepless nights but now that they were on their way I was kind of freaking out. I hadn't even gotten through the full twin specific birthing class, surely there was more info I needed to know that I would miss out on? Dudes do you think you can hang in there for two more weeks? I know I was willing you out but I take it all back! To make matters worse when I called my OB he was on holiday so I had to be looked after by his cover. Not ideal! I'd already gotten over the fact that one man other than my husband had to regularly look at my vagina, but now some other old dude was going to as well?! This is the reason I had female everything when it came to my lady bits, but for some reason I had chosen a male OB!
As soon as I arrived at hospital I was whipped into have an ultrasound to check the positioning of the babies. They had been breach and almost transverse for ages and hadn't shown any signs of wanting to move. Neil (the OB) checked and there they were, Hunter lying on his side with his ear to my cervix and Oscars feet right down next to his head. You couldn't really tell who was the "leading twin" which is an important factor when planning a twin birth. Since they were both in compromised positions we stuck with our original plan of a C-Section but of course now it was an emergency one. I thought that I would be slotted into an open theatre slot for my section. For some reason I thought that it would take a while to get me in there, but back came my OB in full scrubs telling me to change and that we would be in theatre really soon, in minutes actually! Shit! My mum and dad weren't even here yet and I really wanted to see them one last time while I was still pregnant. Luckily as we pulled up to hospital I had called them and they only lived 5 minutes away! At the same time he came in to tell me I would be a mum very soon, contractions started; they weren't bad yet, obviously, but I was glad to have felt "real" ones (remember I had been having some on and off since 30 weeks but they weren't ones during actual labour). I don't know why it felt important to me to feel them, but it made me feel calmer for some bizarre reason.
I was wheeled into another waiting room just outside of theatre, usually your partner/birth support person is the only person allowed in there with you. But my parents had just arrived and they were told I had a few minutes before being taken back, so they luckily were let in to give me a hug.
Jay came out in his surgery get up and said he felt like he was in Greys Anatomy, thanks darling. Glad you are getting to have some fun role-playing make-believe! Jay was so so sooooo pumped the boys were on their way. He is a like a little kid, very excitable and he was all over the place. I was sitting their thinking how surreal this all was, I was nervous, would I feel them pulling the babies out, would they be ok, would I get to see them, cuddle them or would they be taken out to NICU straight away? So many questions! The one question I didn't have was that would I keep vomiting after they were evicted from my belly. Giving birth was something I had been looking forward to for the selfish reason of not being sick anymore. EVERYONE including my OB said I would stop being sick the moment that placenta was out of my body. BRING IT ON was all I could think about! Oh how nice it would be to not have to view the contents of my stomach in the toilet bowl, side of the road or in a plastic bag on the daily.
Into the theatre we went and I had a spinal tap administered. I was a bit scared of the big needles but it wasn't that painful and worked really fast. I was lying on the table and they were running ice up my arm which I could feel, then it dipped below the curtain that was up at my chest and the cold feeling disappeared. It's so weird being able to feel only the top half of your body and knowing they are going to cut into you while you are awake. The wonders of modern medicine huh?!
While this was happening the anesthesiologist was chatting away with me, it was the worst chat ever. I'm talking how's the weather been lately, great aye kinda chat. But he did his job well as I had no idea they had started already. I asked after a few minutes if they could tell me when they were going to start but the OB replied they were almost ready to pull the babies out! One of my friends who had a c section told me she could feel the pressure and the OBs arm inside her moving the baby about, but I literally felt none of that. Good play anaesthesiologist, good play!
Next thing I know I hear a crying baby (note only one crying baby) but I can't see them, they are off to the left hand side of me and being worked on by doctors and nurses. Hunter is swiftly whipped away by staff and after what seems an eternity I'm told I'm allowed to have a quick look and mini cuddle over my shoulder with Oscar, but then he really need to get into his incubator and down to NICU. That's the really shit thing about a lot of prem babies, you don't get to spend any special bonding time with them once they are born. They are tiny little things and are whipped into NICU pretty fast if they are having trouble with doing all the normal things babies are meant to do, like breathe! I feel very lucky now that my babies didn't come at 30 weeks like they had wanted too, every day "on the inside" is about three "on the outside" I am told by the doctors. I'm lucky the boys were ok and didn't need major medical intervention like those really prem babies. My heart breaks for those parents, must be so hard to watch your baby through a plastic box for the first few months of their lives.
Oscar was passed to Jay and he showed me him, I couldn't really see him and my eyes were full of tears from all sorts of emotions. I couldn't believe that tiny little boy was mine, but it felt very odd that I was only laying eyes on one of my babies and I couldn't even hold him yet. I think that not being able to hold him made it feel like make-believe.
I was left in the theatre while the stitched me up and Jay went with the boys to NICU, it was a very surreal and lonely time. I was used to carrying around two babies and now I was just "me" again. I was wheeled into post op care where I had to stay for quite a while, I'm not sure what for. But finally got the OK to move to a ward, they said they could wheel me in my bed (I wasn't allowed to get into a wheel chair at this stage) into NICU to see the boys. It was so strange being pushed into this room with 6 incubators, all with people's babies in them and two of mine. They parked me up next to Oscar and Hunter but I could barely see them from where I was laying and through their incubator. I didn't feel that "pull" to wards them yet, I just felt like I was looking at a random baby.
I was taken to a ward and informed that it was a shared room ward. You only get a private room if you have your baby in the room with you, which I obviously did not. NO ONE had told me this prior to having them and it really threw me. I thought I would be able to have Jay stay with me and some privacy but no, I was to share. This must have been said in that bloody damn last two weeks of the birthing class! I was sitting there (luckily for me at this stage with no one else in my room yet) with my mum and dad. They propped me up in the bed and said I could only go down to see the babies once my spinal tap wore of and I could move my legs on my own. I sat there with a pretty much flat belly, no babies next to me staring at my mum and dad. I felt completely detached and said I felt like I had just had my appendix out or something. I didn't feel "like a mum" and couldn't believe that I really had just had two children. I felt like the last 34 weeks hadn't happened and I was just normal old Anna, not Anna mum of two! This is the moment I think my difficulties to bond with my gorgeous wee men started. I was alone in a hospital and felt like NOTHING had happened. When in reality I had just had major surgery and my two baby boys were being cared for by the amazing people in NICU. It felt like that was all a dream.
It was hours before I could go down to see the boys and I was jealous of all the time Jay had got to spend with them already. I had been given two photos of the boys to look at while I was stuck in my bed and Oscar looked cute and serene but Hunter had a giant PAP machine (to help him breathe) on him and lots of lines into his arms. It was quite scary to look at. I was looking at these two pictures thinking "ok, these are my two kids. I'm supposed to love them unconditionally already right? But I don't, they are just babies in a picture and not even a reality for me yet" It was not a nice feeling and really weird. As I said I was still jealous of all the time Jay got to spend with them, but not because I loved them and couldn't bare to not be with them, but because I thought time with them would stop these silly thoughts I was thinking and help me start feeling that dying need to be with them 24/7. Did I mention I didn't tell anyone how I was feeling at this point? Well I didn't, I felt I was already a rubbish mum for thinking these things and I'm crying now typing this. It was the most isolating, scary and terrifying feeling at the time. All my friends who had babies and everything I had read/heard talked about instantly loving their children so so much and not wanting to go to sleep as all they wanted to do was stare at them. I wasn't feeling that and once again, a big difference between their births and mine. My kids were not in a basket next to me, they were down the hall and locked up in a big plastic box. I wasn't prepared or had no knowledge of this birth reality I was facing and I felt like I was missing out on all the gooey, delicious feelings you got from a "normal" birth where you get to cuddle and hold your baby afterwards. I was in the dark and if you know me you know I don't like not knowing things. This whole process had surprised me even though I knew that if they came early they would be in NICU. The actual reality of NICU was so different to the little I had known about it, let alone how it would make me feel.
Amid all this chaos that was going on in my head I was high on a cocktail of morphine and god knows what, but I did know that I hadn't vomited since I gave birth and was stoked on that! The feelings in my legs finally came back after hours of sitting in bed and I was finally able to call a nurse to wheel me in a chair down to NICU. I was given a swipe card that would be my access in and out of NICU, was told to douse my hands in hand sanitiser every time I went into the room or was going to handle them (to this day the smell of sanitiser brings me straight back to NICU) and we were off. I was nervous but excited to see the boys and hoped I would feel a strong connection with them now that I was going o see them properly. We arrived and Jay was touching one of the boys through the latch in the incubator. Hunter was still needing a lot more care than Oscar and was attached to a lot more machinery but Oscar was doing ok and I was told Jay had already had a cuddle with him out of the incubator. Cue jealous feeling again. I was so sad I didn't get to see Jays face the first time he had a proper cuddle with our son, so many "firsts" had already come and gone with out babies and I wasn't there to be apart of it. It sucked! As much as I wasn't feeling a connection to my kids yet I was determined to overcome feeling like a rubbish mum because of those lack of feeling by throwing myself in there and being the best mum iI could be by being very hands on. If I was doing all the motions and by their side constantly then no one would notice I wasn't recalling feeling all that other stuff then right?!
It was my turn to "meet" my men properly and I stroked Hunter through the incubator. I couldn't believe how small they were and hairy! So much of the baby down hair was all over them, they had such hairy little shoulders and backs. I'm told this baby fluff falls off in utero in the last few weeks, so it makes sense it was still on these little men who had graced the world with their presence 6 weeks early. I think I wasn't allowed to hold Hunter because he was still very much hooked up to everything. I was able to then touch Oscar in the incubator and the nurses said I could hold him. This was it, I was going to get all those butterflies and fall madly in love with my baby! Exciting! It was such an amazing moment being able to hold him and say hi to my little man but I did feel a surge of wanting to protect him and an instinct of needing to get on with "mothering" him, but I didn't feel that huge connection yet and I was sad about it. To make matters worse I started to feel ill! Shit! I thought I was done with this being sick stuff? Seems that them being in my tummy made me feel sick and now holding one of them made me feel sick too! I quickly passed Oscar back to the nurse to put in the incubator and promptly bent over the bin at the foot of my wheelchair and puked! At this moment I was fucking angry I was puking and absolutely gutted it was ruining my moment with my babies. The doctors said I couldn't stay in NICU if I was being sick so I was wheeled back to my room. To be honest I don't remember a lot after this as I was given some pretty heavy anti naus and one of them made me feel rather la la, especially on top of the morphine, but I do remember being really upset about not being able to stay longer with the boys and Jay said I was a bit of a mess about it all. The nurses told me I was probably being sick due to the pain meds so I shouldn't worry, it would stop once they were out of my system....
WRONG I puked and puked that night and it was misery. I remember in between the haze of being absolutely exhausted and sick, Jay waking me up (they let him stay in my room the first night since I was so sick and I didn't have a room mate yet) to get me to massage my boob to get colostrum out which he would suck up in a syringe drop by drop. Jay said I would squeeze my boob, a few drops would come out which he would syringe up and then look up and I would have fallen back asleep hands on boob mid squeeze. Pretty hilarious if you ask me. The colostrum gathering took awhile, but turns out that was one thing I was good at. The nurses couldn't believe I was delivering so many full syringes down for them to feed the boys!
First day of motherhood was long and so much happened, including feeling all these scary feelings that I had already started feeling when pregnant but assumed would go away when the babies arrived. I hadn't prepared myself for not feeling that bond instantly and it was so scary and made me feel really bad about myself. I didn't realise this is a completely normal thing to feel at the time, I had only ever heard the good stuff when it came to brith and meeting your bubba or bubbas in my case. So even though its painful to write about, I'm doing it. If I can help one person not feel as alone, scared and shitty about themselves because they have read this and learnt that it IS NORMAL and OK to feel this way, then I will be a happy lady.
I was glad I got some rest that night, as I didn't realise I would be in hospital myself just as long as the boys and that I would have a long and hard 10 day stay in front of us.
Now let me stop here, this is incredibly long! I think we need to break this up into part one and two because my brith story doesn't really stop at giving birth. It's the whole experience of having prem babies and being stuck in NICU. So let's stop here and I'll write about the rest of our NICU experience and my hospital stay over the next few days. Because lets face it, there is only so much staring at a screen you can do on one blog post at a time. Especially if you are reading this in your lunch hour or even more precious, nap time! I don't want to take up too much of your precious quiet baby free time. So go do whatever it is you need to do while there is no kids running about and I promise
They say ‘There is always two sides to every story’, probably three, the third being the truth. This is my side. Us fellas are the simplest of creatures when boiled down to the simplest things. We are all the same. In order for us to survive and be happy ‘Feed us and fuck have sex with us’ in return we will do our best to provide you with everything, a roof over your head, a comfortable life, food in your belly and next to that food a baby. That is a pretty standard egocentric view of how things roll. In our relationship I did all those things……except the baby thing. For what ever reason, my swimmers (sperm) are terrible. Not ‘a little irregular’ or ‘a touch inactive’ I'm talking TERRIBLE! Like I said in the beginning, we are simple creatures with one role in ensuring the human race continues and when you are incapable of doing this it’s hard not to feel like you aren’t contributing to humanity, you're a useless male, luggage.
Luckily for me Anna didn’t share those views, she is a lot more pragmatic with her life approach. She set about putting herself through the only option available to ensure we could have children, pushing needles through which various concoctions of hormones would send her body into overdrive and allow her eggs to be harvested like ripe grapes plucked from a vine. All of which made her sad, happy, sick and crazy…..real crazy. And all for me, us. For this I will forever be enamoured and in her debt. Which is why that is one of the millions of examples of why I coul sail past the ‘I don’t know if I like you anymore' crazy moments fertility drugs brought on because it wasn't her, it's not her fault, we are here because of me.
Needless to say after all that she put herself through when the first embryo was placed back inside her, we cried with excitement. Only to cry again shortly after we found out the embryo didn’t take and we were back to square one. It’s a roller coaster, one that once aboard you are unable to see the end, duration, path it takes or how scary it is. We saw this as the final roll of the dice, with everything bet on it. I know that this isn’t the case, people will say that there are countless options, surrogates, adoptions, ‘a friend of mine tried this’, ‘just relax and it will happen’, ‘when the time is right it will happen’ the list goes on, and I say this with love, SHUT THE FUCK UP. People are amazing and innately offer positivity and solutions, all road maps to similar trips that have been taken but completely different journeys, similar, but not ours.
After we mentally built ourselves back up enough to attempt the transplant for the second time we had talked ourselves into setting low expectations for success, you can’t be disappointed if you don’t have high hopes. How is that for a defeatist mentality?! Deep down both of us had everything thing we could possibly cross, crossed, hoping that this would work. And it did. I can remember the home and garden magazine I thumbed through in the reception, I remeber the doctors suite in the corner of the building looking out over Ellerslie racecourse, I remember Anna’s face and how she seemed to hold her breath while the scan was taking place, I rember the flicking light on the screen indicating a viable heart beat and I remember how time stood still when the doctor said ‘Oh……we need to have a conversation about their being two of them….you are having twins.’ I also remember jumping up and down, clapping my hands and making a weird squealing noise whilst Anna grabbed the wall to stop her from falling, even though she was horizontal on a bed. I always for what ever reason had wanted twins and as always the universe was delivering.
We had done it!!! We were finally going to be parents, job done. That’s what I thought anyway.
Through out the pregnancy Anna was incredibly sick, even with the blood volume in her body doubling and two humans growing inside of her, she was losing weight. She battled hard in the beginning, going to work and trying to work. It is amazing how much the human body can endure, Anna would try her best to eat and drink but no matter what we tried, nothing would stay inside. I was worried that not only she wasn’t getting what her body needed to sustain itself but that the boys were also going without. Trips to hospital to plunge knitting sized needles into evasive veins so that IV lines could top up the fluid levels that Anna couldn’t maintain on her own were a regular, the intercostal muscles between her ribs stretched and contorted to make space for the every growing little humans she was nurturing, but causing her immense pain at the same tme. Massages, heat packs, cold packs, osteo, chiro, acupuncture, you name it, we tried it, nothing worked. Every morning I would wake up wishing I could, but knowing I couldn’t do a single thing to help, no chance of pain minimization, to stop her being sick.. just a hope that it won’t be as bad as the day before. It took every ounce of Anna’s strength to get through each day, no food, no water, the only thing that kept her full was the love growing inside of her. Love was the only thing that kept all three of them going.
I have to admit that I wasn’t the most supportive partner, I thought for whatever reason all the fun things I did, we did, were coming to a close and I did what every egocentric vapid individual does. I partied, a lot. I convinced myself that going out and drinking as much as I could, would capture some of the partying I would soon be missing. I don’t think I achieved that. What I did do was leave Anna by herself when she needed me most, as we were heading into the biggest moment in our lives, Anna was alone and I was drunk.
I'm not sure at what point things changed, if something was said, if I did something that pushed her past the point of putting up with it, but it did. Things changed. You quickly realize that if you are going to become great parents, you first need to be a great team, a great couple. We had open honest discussions about what we needed, expected and wanted to be the best we could be for each other.
As we got closer to the due date, anticipation built. A couple of ‘episodes’ had us pretty nervous, at around the 30 week mark we rushed into hospital thinking that the boys were about to arrive, less than ideal. When it comes to twins, everything in the pregnancy is stacked against you, things can go wrong and often do, we were glad we had an amazing OB by our side at times like this. Steroid injections were administered to build the boys lungs up in the event they did turn up early and we were told to be ready. I was travelling away for work to the 7’s in Wellington the next day, my boss ‘Bosto’ at ZM was super cool and gave me the option of staying home but Anna insisted I go.
It was going to take a village to raise these boys and luckily for us we had what felt like a whole country behind us, family, friends, collegues, strangers, everyone was offering assistance. It was incredibly heartening to know we had that kind of support, we didn’t take it for granted and we made sure we took people up on their offers. I don’t know how we would’ve done it without them.
It was early march and I had managed to surf quite a lot over summer, sneaking in waves whenever I could, everything was looking good for the following day at Piha so the plan was to be at the beach at 6am before the seabreeze ruffled the water. That night however I enjoyed a few cold yeasts with the lads to watch the rugby and hit the snooze button when my alarm went off at 5am opting for a sleep in. At 6:30 Anna woke me up thinking she had wet the bed, this was a sign of things to come, the boys were up and wanting to meet us six weeks early...
I have been putting off writing this blog. To be completely honest my pregnancy wasn't much fun at all, in fact I kind of hated it. I was really sick so writing this feels like re living it and it's something I try to forget. But here goes, as I know you would like to read about it. So I will put your needs before mine. Don't say I'm not good to you. Here goes it....Read More
Sooooo I'm here, glass of wine in hand with some awful TV on in the background deciding what should be my first proper, proper post should be. I know there is the I'm Anna Reeve one, but that doesn't really count. Ok, lets start at the almost beginning, I say that as I'm starting at the beginning of Jay and I, as that's the beginning of The Nuggets and they are what have led to this, my blog, Anna Reeve.co.nz (yip I'm that un creative I just named it after myself, so clever...right?!)Read More