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Let me go on record as saying that while I am approaching that phase most women reach late in their pregnancies where I am kind of sick of looking like a Volkswagen Beetle and feeling like Humpty Dumpty, I have rather enjoyed being pregnant.
I hesitate to apply the word “blessed” to my easy pregnancy as I think some might attribute this “blessing” to other-worldly factors, or divine intervention, but I have been fortunate, extremely fortunate.  Far from my initial (okay, pervading) worries about the inherently high-risk nature of a twin pregnancy, or the looming threat of pre-term labor and/or months of bed rest, the actual pregnancy has been remarkably, well, unremarkable.
I have been spared many of the statistically and stereotypically common ailments and complaints, or at least the annoyances have been late in coming, minor, or easy to cope with.  Morning sickness?  Twice I think I felt slightly queasy.   If anything, not having morning sickness caused me to worry, as I was paranoid I had miscarried, or in disbelief that, after 18 months of trying, I actually was truly pregnant.  Yet the distinct lack of heaving and vomiting let me keep the first trimester a secret from work and family.  Cravings?  I remember feeling constantly thirsty during the first trimester, and craving juicy fruits, but luckily I was kept flush with my need throughout the spring and summer as peaches and watermelon came into season and were ever-present in our home.  My husband was spared the midnight run to the grocery store for pickles and rocky road ice cream.  Swelling?  I’m at 36 weeks with twins, and still wearing my wedding bands.  I still have ankles, even if I can’t see them.  Stretch marks?  My first appeared around 32 weeks, and I’ll admit, my lower belly is now covered in deep red ridges like magma flowing from a volcano.  They itch all night long, no matter how much baby oil and cream I slather over them, but at least I was spared these ghastly disfigurements until 32 weeks.  Hemorrhoids?  Never heard of ’em.  Constipation?  Just drink more water.  Trouble sleeping?  Once my belly became large enough to need “support” I found a pregnancy support pillow called a “Snoogle” and it has been my sleep partner from month 4 till month 8.  Only recently has sleep become evasive again.
The point here is not to catalog a list of woes, or to minimize the difficulties others have had throughout their pregnancies; it is only to demonstrate how fortunate I have been to have such an uneventful twin pregnancy, thus far.
When I began feeling the babies kicking around 22 weeks, I suddenly became one of those pregnant women resting her hands on her belly.  I am addicted to feeling them squirm and wiggle and kick.  Our nightly kick counts, where I just zone out on the couch and focus on their movements until I have counted ten, are moments of pure self-indulgence.  If I’m this hooked on feeling a little foot in my belly, I wonder how mesmerized I’ll be watching their chests rise and fall while they sleep, or seeing the smiles on their little faces as they fall deep into a milk coma.
Initially, as I said, I kept my pregnancy a secret.  Our previous miscarriage made me afraid to jump the gun telling people, not for fear I would jinx the pregnancy, but because of the pain we had endured having to “untell” our friends and family last time.  I didn’t have to tell, either, because I didn’t show for some time.  Though my doctor warned of the lordosis and back aches many pregnant women develop from leaning back to off-set their growing bellies, I was only able to see that I had a baby bump when I did arch my back.  Even at 4.5 months pregnant, on our trip to Ireland, I was barely showing.  I was almost embarrassed to have a belly, to have something to show for my growing babies.  I’m not accustomed to changes in my body shape, and I was self-conscious as I passed into that “Is she pregnant or just fat?” stage.   I often joked with friends and family who wanted to know how huge I was, that I just looked like I had had a large meal.
Now, however, the enormity of my belly is finally a result of having two nearly formed beings inside, and it’s unavoidable, which has also become fun.  As my belly grows more and more comically oversized, strangers’ attitudes have shifted from polite comments and questions, “Oh, when are you due?  Do you  know if it’s a boy or a girl?” (when it wasn’t obvious I was carrying more than one) to more brazen “Oh, jeez, lady!  When are you due?  Tomorrow?”  I have also received my fair share of inappropriate questions and comments, such as our neighbor who asked if it was okay to call my “chubby”.  And the awkward lady at the grocery store, who, upon hearing we were expecting twins, asked if I’d had something “done”.  My favorite is when people ask if we know the sex, which we have kept a secret so far.  My hubby will usually say, “Why, yes, obviously.  We do know The Sex.”  We’ve taken to telling people who ask if we know what they are, that they are lemurs.  This catches them off guard enough to head off any further probing.
The attention is interesting.  Sometimes people are overly accommodating, opening check-out lines just for me, and freeing up chairs when I’ve made it clear I can, thanks to prenatal yoga, be perfectly comfortable on the floor.  Other times, they wait for me to ask for what I need.  Pregnancy is not a disability, though I do take advantage now of “stork parking” at the Superfresh, and try to minimize the number of trips up and down the steps if I can help it.
I’m 36+ weeks pregnant with twins.  The last growth scan/ultrasound (at nearly 34 weeks) estimated the babies each weighed more than 4.5 lbs, and were within “average” size for singletons.  I’m still working full-time.  I climb 63 stairs each morning to get to my office.  I go to yoga every other week.  I’m still walking our 64lb (though elderly) and 32lb (though spritely) dogs.  I’m still out doing things I love, and I’m very grateful my babies and my body allow me to do so.
We were visiting with one of Mr. Apron’s friends when she brought her 1-year old to town, and she asked if I was enjoying being pregnant.  I modestly replied I didn’t mind so much, as I knew she was not the type to embrace her pregnancy glow, and had probably found the belly burdensome to her daily farmer chores.  While I do confess I’m sick to pieces of maternity clothing (I wax nostalgic about my  pants that stayed up without advanced engineering and the closet full of shirts I haven’t been able to wear in 5 months), and I would love to be able to turn over in bed without a Herculean effort (or sleep on my back!  What luxury), it’s been rather enjoyable.  I’m bonding with the little parasites in my belly, imagining what they’ll look like and who they’ll become.  I’m channeling my excess hormones lovingly crafting clothing for them and decorations for their nursery.  I’m keeping busy researching sleep training, breast pumps, and high chairs.  I’m thrilled to pieces to hear that the cribs and the bedding will be arriving within a week.  The excitement from our friends and family is infectious.
With most of the threat of premature labor behind us, and my bag packed for the hospital, I’m preparing for the final portion of my pregnancy, the part that ends in the doubling of our family and the welcoming of two precious babies into our home and our lives.
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My sleep situation finally reached its tipping point.  Or should I say, my lack of sleep.  For perhaps two weeks now, I’ve awoken after only 4.5-5 hours of sleep (some night it’s as little as 3.5), and been completely unable to fall back asleep.  I do all the tossing and turning they show on mattress, pillow, and sleep aid commercials, but what they don’t show is the toll it takes on the psychological health.  Night after night, I’d try to coax myself into a peaceful slumber, yet my mind was racing.  It was filled with the torments of my anxieties about our impending parenthood.  The theme was always, “We’re not ready.  It’s too soon.”  I’m 34.5 weeks pregnant with twins.  Average gestation for a twin pregnancy is 37 weeks.  To think that I’m just sitting here placidly at work for 8 hours a day instead of frantically preparing for their possibly imminent birth is ridiculous, or so my subconscious mind would have me believe.  And as my mind filled with my worries, my body began to absorb the unrest.  Suddenly, my Snoogle maternity pillow, which has been my miraculous sleep companion since August, could offer me little comfort.  Suddenly the sheets clung to my pajamas or to each other.  Dog fur seemed to be everywhere.  My nasal passages were at once clogged with my pregnancy swelling.  My throat was dry.  I had to pee.  And then, my legs got in on the party.

I’ve always been a kid who needed to fidget a little.  Not strictly ADD, it was more of a nervous habit I developed – moving some part of my body, so that my mind could focus on the task at hand.  I played with Silly Putty throughout 9th grade geometry to keep myself awake.  I find it difficult to sit through an entire movie without feeling an unbearable urge to shift my body.  And when I’m sitting “still”, I am often tapping my foot rhythmically, or rapping my fingernails against some piece of hard plastic in the car, usually without realizing it.

Now they’ve put a medical term to my fidgets: Restless Leg Syndrome.  The commercials are goofy, and mostly dedicated to (like the ones for fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome) trying to convince you RLS exists, and of course is treatable by their drugs.  My need to move, though, never kept me awake at night.  Now, I think, my bladder wakes me up, my mind keeps me up, and my body keeps me from falling back asleep.  My legs began twitching.  I can’t explain it like the commercials do, like a tingling, or like ants marching up and down my legs.  It’s not even an unbearable urge to move them.   It’s just…moving them.  And moving them doesn’t relieve the issue.  I’d lie there, trying not to think about my legs, and then they’d jerk around on their own.  My feet would start rubbing frenetically against each other, my toenails slicing battle wounds on my calves, my toes, my heels.  I tried to pin them under my no-longer-sleeping husband or dog.  I tried sleeping on the couch and shoving my feet in the crack between the cushions to give them some deep sensory input, or at least to provide some resistance to their twitching.  Nothing worked.  And as the hours wore on, I became so tired and so frustrated with the futility of working so hard to sleep, that I would break down completely.

Many nights, I woke up a sympathetic husband who was at a loss how to help me.  He tried rubbing my back, holding me close to him, and asking if I wanted to talk.  One night the comfort of his body against mine did seem to break the spell and let me fall back asleep, but it was no cure-all, as night after night, I continued to disturb both of our rest.  I would whimper, I would cry, I would wail apologetically to my husband, knowing he had to work in the morning.  I would work myself into thrashing crying fits, working at cross purposes to my attempts to fall asleep.

I found myself at the computer in the middle of the night, the sudden bright lights of the monitor shocking my dilated pupils, trying to numb my brain with Facebook, trying to empty my mind by writing down my anxieties, trying at least to leave my poor husband alone, but nothing worked.  After an hour or so I’d return to bed and fitfully catch another half-hour of sleep in bursts, usually in the minutes before my alarm would go off.

In one of my non-sleeping stupors, I found myself e-mailing my parents.  Panicking the next day that my missive had seemed psychotic, I dug through my sent-mailbox, relieved to find out it had actually been somewhat coherent.  This of course led to a useless phone call with my mother, who chose to focus on my fatigue – not the reasons behind it – by suggesting I somehow slide a couch into my 4’x 8’ cubicle, or take cat naps at my desk during lunch, and compensate by eating half my lunch at 10:30 and 2.  I assured her that if my school had any spare spaces big enough for a couch, they’d have made it into a classroom by now.

Finally yesterday, the sleep deprivation caught up with me.  I had had a particularly rough evening.  The dog, left unsupervised, had destroyed the base of the couch in search of the tin from a pot pie, ripping shreds of corduroy, batting, foam, and Ikea “wood”, sending me into a storm of anger.  She had also eaten yet another one of my socks, one I had thought I had put out of her reach.  In a torrent I lashed out at her, raging around the house screaming, scaring my husband and myself, unable to access any coping mechanisms to calm myself down.  Even after I did, I knew sleep would not be restful.  I woke at 3:30, and I eventually gave up on sleep and instead chose to shower at 5:15 rather than trying to fight the sleep demons for 45 minutes of shut-eye.

I called myOB’s office in desperation.  I had not mentioned my difficulty sleeping last week when I saw her.  I had been running late to the appointment, caught up in rush hour traffic, and had felt guilty running through my full litany of inane questions.  What’s more, every pregnant woman has difficulty sleeping, and the complaint seemed foolish, or at least mundane.  I read about it on Facebook as my peer-group kicks into reproductive overdrive, and recommends pregnancy pillows and memory foam mattress toppers.  I hear about it at yoga, as the other women discuss iron supplements, stretching, and massage.  And I hate the pat response I always get when I do try to reach out to people – “Just wait till the babies are here!” or “It’s just practice for the sleep deprivation that comes with newborns!”  Of course, when I had worked up the courage to actually call my doctor’s office, she wasn’t there.  The entire staff of MDs, it seems, was out yesterday.  So I spoke to a nurse. Through my overwrought fatigue, I managed to convey to her that this had reached a breaking point.  Nerd that I am, I may have said, in my quivering don’t-cry-don’t-cry voice, that my difficulty sleeping was “untenable”.  So she recommended I take Benadryl.

While the smallest bit of caffeine can send me bouncing off the walls, and a Starbucks Frappuccino sets me hypomanic for at least two hours (low tolerance for caffeine is great), the antihistamine has little effect on me, as opposed to my husband, who conks out on the couch after taking one Benadryl.  Through his sniffling and schmulling (did I mention he’s sick?), he took one pill, and I downed two.  I did my yoga stretches, trying to fatigue my legs, and my sweet husband plied and massaged my calf muscles and feet until they could put up resistance no longer.  Maybe it was the placebo effect of trying something new, or throwing the book at my sleep issue.  Maybe it was the effect of the Benadryl, or maybe the fatigue had finally caught up with me.  In any case, I slept from 11 until 4, got up for my customary pee, and was able to fall right back asleep until the alarm went off.

I’ve never been one to reach for the meds as my first defense.  Many days in college I would lie on a scorching heating pad and skip class rather than treat my cramps with Advil.  I dealt with my tongue seizures for years by running and hiding rather than seeking treatment.   And through the early part of my pregnancy, I was extremely reluctant to take even Tylenol (which, of course, was all I could take) for my migraines.  As for a sleep issue, for that, too, I’d rather try my other options first.  I’d rather deal with the underlying issues, whether they’re anxiety or physical discomfort, than chemically sedate myself.  But in this case, the lack of sleep was compounding, and I was having such anxiety about sleeping itself, that I was at odds with myself.  I’d tried listing out my worries, doing my yoga, and soliciting calf massages, to no avail.  My therapist is woefully out of commission for the near future, recovering from back surgery.  And talking to my mother had of course proved futile.  I was wracked with guilt about disturbing my husband’s sleep, and barely able to function at work.

And so I took the meds.  And so I got some sleep.  I still worry about the babies coming.  I still need to talk to my therapist.  I may still need to go through the yoga and the massaging, and I won’t be giving up my Snoogle any time soon.  Maybe meds are not the answer, but they might be part of the equation.

Sometimes I think I can’t remember the Depression, can’t remember watching myself sink into the couch, too upset to move, full of self-loathing, apathy, and passive disinterest.

And then, it all comes back.  It’s only an hour and a half that Mr. Apron is gone – including travel time – but if I’m not glued to one screen (TV), I’m glued to another (computer, iPad), and still immobilized enough that the feelings from the Depression come rushing back.  Sometimes I can “bootstrap” myself out of it by running through a mental list of all the things I allegedly want to do.  I of course reject doing 99% of them, but by latching onto the smallest, least cumbersome chore, I am sometimes able to gather enough momentum to pull myself off the literal or figurative couch.  However, I think my list of tasks is too long tonight, or I’m so overwhelmed in general, that I’m just going to bask in the deluge of being stuck.

The babies are coming, the babies are coming.  I’m at 33 weeks gestation.  At 30 weeks, they weighed in at over 3 lbs each, and I’m estimating that by my next ultrasound this Friday, they’ll be at 4 lbs.  I’m still terrified of pre-term labor.  I had a scare around 27 weeks, where the ultrasound showed my cervix might be getting ready for labor.  Thankfully, I wasn’t showing any other signs, and clearly, I haven’t had the babies yet, but it still shocked me into a hyper aware state, much like how Mr. Apron behaved for about a week after he was pulled over, driving past the corner where he was caught in a speed trap.  After a while, the caution and sensitivity fade, and life returns to normal.

Unless you’re having twins.  They’re coming, pre-term or not.  At the outside, if I go full-term, I only have 7 weeks left.  And if I make it “full-term” for twins, which is only 37 weeks, I have less than a month.  I speak as if I’m facing a terminal illness instead of the birth of my children.  Still, I’m not ready.  I doubt that 4, or even 7 weeks would ever be enough time to prepare, mentally.  Sure, the cribs have been ordered, and the car seats lie in wait.  The stroller is in the basement, optimistic that we’ll ever set foot outside our house again once the babies are born.  I’m mourning the end of our life as a couple, of our life as adult-focused people.  I’m not even talking about so-called adult activities, like drinking, staying out until all hours, and beer pong.  I’m talking about our adult activities, like snuggling in the bed together, watching Antiques Roadshow together, botching home improvement projects together, and evening crafting/computer time together.  Our together time.  I know we’ll make time for these things that are important to us.  I know babysitters (aka in-laws) exist for a reason, and they will provide respite care so we can go out for an evening.  But I’m still scared.  And I know that despite our best efforts (and even successes!) at retaining the essence of who we are, who we were, before children, it can never be the same.

I’m scared I won’t be ready.  I never can be.  I’m excited to meet my babies.  I narcissistically can’t wait to see how they look like us.  I can’t wait for their new baby smells.

I know I won’t be able to have my pity parties anymore either.  There just won’t be a 90-minute block of time for me to be stuck.  There will be diapers and feedings, and burping and entertaining, and soothing and swaddling.  I’m scared.  I’m scared I’ll get stuck even though it will look different than it does now.  I want to enjoy my babies whether their father is home with us, or gone for an hour or a day.  I want to be the awesome mom I know in my heart of hearts I can be.  And I can’t let the Depression get in the way.

with apologies to Margery Williams…

 

“Does it hurt?” asked the Mother-to-Be.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for she was always truthful. “When you are a Mother you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” the pregnant woman asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are a Mother, most of your skin has stretch marks, and your belly drops out and you get loose in the joints and very tired. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are a Mother you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

“I suppose you are a Mother?” said the Expectant Woman. And then she wished he had not said it, for she thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive. But the Skin Horse only smiled.