Well, you might as well hear it from me today.  You’ll be hearing it from Mr. Apron as of 7:18am anyhow.  I’m the one more affected right now, and for next 6 months.  Well, 28 weeks, if we’re talking full gestational time. 

And pregnancy. 

We did it.  We really did it this time.  We held our tongues, we waited until 12 weeks, we were cautiously optimistic from the first ultrasound until this past week.  We’re finally ready to tell. 

After our miscarriage in the fall of 2009, we’ve been trying on and off to get pregnant.  We’ve been waylaid by a variety of issues, some of which may have had to do with fertility, some of which were “life events” (changing jobs, health issues).  Finally, I got up the nerve to talk to my OB/GYN, who referred me to a reproductive endocrinologist, in other words, an infertility doctor.  I have blogged about the infertility testing, about the waiting and the nervousness.  I have even blogged about finding out April 7, 2011, from the R.E. that there was technically “nothing” wrong with our fertility. 

What I didn’t blog about was the positive pee-on-a-stick a mere week later, on April 14, and the celebratory hair cut the next day.  I didn’t blog about any of it.  I’ve kept rather quiet lately.  What’s been on my mind has not been on my blog, because I committed myself to wait until 12 weeks. 

Which is today, folks.  As I cannot recreate my feelings from April 14, or from my first ultrasound April 28th, I will post a piece I wrote the week after the ultrasound, when everything became very, very real.  I must warn you, it’s long.  But there’s a nice surprise in it.  I hope you decide to read the whole thing. 

A few years ago, while I was preparing for and recovering from my brain surgery, I experienced a phenomenon akin to a 24-hour news cycle in my head.  It was one of those news stories that the media refuse to let go of, and cover every single possible angle, until I cannot bear to listen even to NPR, and my measly daily 20 minutes of “The Today Show” becomes torturous.  It’s the Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill, it’s Hurricane Katrina, it’s the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centers, it’s the tsunami and earthquake in Japan.  Except this broadcast is solely in my head.  There was a stock ticker constantly parading the following messages, with its many dimensions and subtle variations, all day and all night long:

Brain surgery…brain surgery…brain surgery…recovery…brain surgery…hospital…brain surgery…brain…

I could not shut it off, I could not change the channel, I could not turn down the volume.  It was exactly like the night my (then) boyfriend and mother spent in the surgical waiting room at the hospital where I was to have my craniotomy.  Bridget Jones’ Diary was playing on loop on the television. 

“He likes me for me?”

They could not turn it off, change the channel, or turn it down.

Eventually, with time, some cathartic writing and a mixed media assemblage, the “voices” quieted.  But they’re back, on a different channel.  My 24-hour news cycle is stuck covering the top story of the moment.  No, not the Royal Wedding, not the Marcellus Shale natural gas reserves, not even Charlie Sheen’s stand-up tour.  This time, my brain is covering all possible angles of my pregnancy. 

At first, I was in denial about the whole thing.  I’d be humming along in my daily routines, and every once in a while, a thought would surface, and I’d realize, “I’m pregnant?  Wow!”  I almost didn’t believe it.  After trying to conceive for nearly 18 months since our miscarriage, my disbelief was probably some sort of protective mechanism designed to keep me from being too hopeful.  I could be cautious, since the risk of miscarriage looms heavily in our minds.  Over the last 2 weeks, as my lab work has come back with promising levels of pregnancy hormones, I’m gradually coming around.  There’s nothing like a respected medical professional to help me believe the results I saw on my own home pregnancy test.  We were almost able to come to some sort of jubilant, yet cautious, optimism.  We were almost able to think our greatest challenge would be biting our tongues to avoid telling our friends and family too soon. 

Then there was a new challenge. 

“Are you okay…with what I just told you?”  the ultrasound technician asked, vaguely. 

As she maneuvered the ultrasound wand deep in my girl parts, I mumbled a faint, “Uh huh.”  I had seen exactly what she had on the screen, but I didn’t believe it.  She said it, and I didn’t believe it. 

There.  Were.  Two.  Sacs.  Two.  Babies. 

I texted my husband to come into the room.  I looked directly into his eyes, trying to sit him down on the rolly stool in the exam room. 

“Oh, God, “ he said, “It’s twins, isn’t it?”

So much for my attempts at breaking the news gently.  I showed him the images the tech printed for me.  We sat numbly on a bench in the hallway, waiting for my doctor to tell us what we had just found out from the tech.  I looked at him, numbly.  “What have we done?”  I said.

With any fertility treatment, with any “assisted” reproduction, the rules change.  Though I only did one cycle at the lowest dose of Clomid, though the risk of multiples is still minimal, we managed to do it.  We made jokes about Mr. Apron’s virility; we stared blankly at each other, our minds reeling. 

Two. 

Our house suddenly seemed very small.  The pregnancy suddenly went from a silly normal thing to a diagnosis of massive proportion. Humans are not meant to be so endowed.  Wombs are meant to be single-passenger models.  We are not the most fertile of species to begin with.  We’re supposed to bear heirs, not litters.  I suddenly had an image of myself as a sow, collapsed on the barnyard floor, 8 piglets vying for my attention. 

“You were only on one dose of Clomid, right?” my doctor asked.  Mr. Apron thought she maybe was checking to see if I didn’t slip myself a few more for good measure.  I think, rather, she was checking with her own clinical judgment, as in, “I only prescribed you one, right?”  What had we done?

I never wanted twins.  I’ll say that up front.  I wanted to have one baby at a time, and to be able to give my undivided attention to my first.  I didn’t want the additional risk of prematurity, of developmental delay, of breathing and feeding problems.  I didn’t want the additional burden of going out of my way to make sure each of my children had separate identities.  I didn’t want to worry about giving them separate social experiences, encouraging each to excel in different areas, letting them have distinct friend groups.  I didn’t want to think about terrible twos times two, or potty training two at a time.  I didn’t want to think about twice as many diapers, or buying two of everything. 

Sure, there’s a chance one of them will “vanish”.  There’s actually quite a significant percentage of singleton babies who started out gestation as one of twins.  Most people, not having ultrasounds until they are 10-12 weeks along, would have no idea they had even been pregnant with twins.   This happened to friends of ours.  Due to their own infertility, they, too, had an early ultrasound that showed two yolk sacs, and a few weeks later, one had vanished.  I comforted myself with this possibility.

To say we could not concentrate at work the day we got the news was an understatement.  To say we were preoccupied was like saying having twins is a little bit harder than having a singleton.  There have been a few days like this in my life, days where shocking news has hijacked my brain at work, and left me barely able to function at my job – when I started dating Mr. Apron, when we became engaged, the week before our wedding, when I got my AVM diagnosis and was preparing for surgery.  Somehow, we made it through the day.  Of course, the news channel was broadcasting a little differently:

TWINS…TWINS…TWINS…TWINS…TWINS… TWINS…TWINS…TWINS…TWINS…TWINS… TWINS…TWINS…

I cheerily told myself and my husband that I was coping a bit better with the shock yesterday.  Last night, in a wave of nausea and fatigue, I decided to stay home while Mr. Apron and his sister went to the art museum.  After a nap, I began my googling. 

I had not been able to do it before – the level of shock was overwhelming.  It loomed large, indistinct, and stupefying, inarticulate.  But last night, I was able to formulate some real questions, and to go in search of some answers to calm, or at least inform, myself. 

“Do you really need two of everything when you have twins?”

No.  You can even get away with having one crib, with a crib divider, for several months, or longer.

“When are twins usually born?”

At 37 weeks gestation.

“Are twins usually born in a C-section?”

Not necessarily.  Twins can be born vaginally, depending on their position and size. 

“Is there a Mothers of Multiples chapter near me?”

Absolutely.  They have a twice-yearly clothing/toy exchange and offer support for women pregnant with multiples as well as moms of twins, triplets, etc.   

After I finished my bit of googling, Mr. Apron came home, and I felt better.  But as the night wore on, and I saw 1am, 2am, and 3am, I knew my mind was far from satisfied.  My brain was broadcasting the 24-hour twin channel, though it was varying its coverage a little more than before.  Whereas the shock of seeing two embryos had merely triggered TWINS…TWINS…TWINS…, I now had fully formed anxieties, articulated worries, manic concerns, and specific trepidation. 

I was rearranging furniture as I tossed and turned.  I emptied the office/craft room of our grown-up stuff, and set up bunk beds.  I renovated the bathroom and added maximum storage.  I set up two high chairs in the dining room.  I conceived of napping and changing stations in every part of our house.  I relegated our sharp-edged coffee table to the basement and imagined myself propping up babies on various pillows for feeding.  I thought about double-strollers, and trips to the grocery store.  I imagined myself pushing a cart with one infant in a car seat, the other strapped into a Snugli.  I saw two car seats in each of our cars. I saw the twins who lived down the street until last summer.  I imagined a half-dozen ways to break the news to our families, in two-steps of jaw-dropping.  In one version, I designed a pop-up card with two windows, a la “Spot the Dog”.  Window one opens, telling them of their impending grandparent-hood or of our pregnancy in general. Window two then opens, revealing the twin-surprise.  I imagined myself shuffling around work with my feet swollen, belly impossibly huge, fielding questions from my students.  I conceived of the trip I planned this summer with my sister, of being huge in August, a month full of weather I don’t handle so well when I’m not a vessel for two other lives.  In spite of my googling, I fear.  I know I’m petite.  I wonder if I can carry them to term.  I worry about having to go on bed-rest.  I wonder about giving birth.  I worry about the increased possibility of a C-section.  I worry I won’t be able to provide enough milk for them.  I worry I won’t be able to keep them safe and happy.  I worry we will fail them at every stage.

And in that way, I am already bonding with my babies.  I feel guilty for hoping one of them would vanish, for wishing the easier, “normal” route on my husband and me.  I already worry about my babies, even though they are scarcely the size of a sweet pea each.  They each have a heartbeat, at 105 bpm. Is what I’m eating enough for them?  Am I staying active enough, resting enough?  Will the dogs take to the babies?  Will I be able to keep them safe and healthy inside me, until I’m charged with keeping them safe and healthy for the rest of their lives? 

People often adopt sayings, which explain away unfortunate circumstances, or justify unforeseen events.  My mother-in-law is a firm believer in “Things happen for a reason”.  She’d probably try to foist that on us now, if she knew.  Right after she threw up her hands and began worrying about them.   Religious people are known to say, “HaShem/God will never give you anything you cannot handle.”  Even Erma Bombeck is guilty of explaining how children of special needs are given only to women who are strong enough.  None of these clichés appeals to me, as I can see how directly they come from a need to rationalize and justify hardship, suffering, disability, and disease.  I know that none of those mottos will be the one to shut down the constant broadcast of news through my conscious, sub-conscious and unconscious brain as I try to go about my daily life for the next 8 months.  I only hope that the two outlets I have will be able to succeed where google failed.  Through writing about my fears and worries, and through sharing them with my husband, I hope I’ll be able to change the channel.

Or at least turn down the volume.  Too much noise may damage the babies’ hearing.

Advertisements