Motherhood….again

Differences and blessings

Well, it’s been awhile since I’ve written and honestly I have so many things I could share with you all.

First of all, those of you that were praying for us and checking on us during hurricane Harvey… Thank you. I was pretty overwhelmed and stressed during that time as Madison could have made an earlier entrance to the world. But she didn’t. In fact, she was cozy until we got her out on our revised birthday August 31st! She was 7lbs 14oz –  not even close to the 9lbs I thought she was going to be! Haha! We were all surprised, including the doctor.

Secondly, still pray for us. It’s been a world of transition for everyone. The boys love their “issy” but they are just going through some tough toddler stuff right now. With the combination of a newborn and that, Nick and I are wiped out!

Now to the point of this post. I keep thinking about how motherhood is SO DIFFERENT this time around. I don’t mean a comparison between the two but I literally mean it’s a completely different experience. And I know, some of you are thinking (especially the ones with children), “Yep, every kid is different.” Well, while I’m sure that is so true. HOWEVER, this is the FIRST time I’m experiencing motherhood how it “should be.” Or, at least, what I envisioned it would have been with my boys the first time around. Madison was in my arms as fast as possible, she never left our sides the entire time we were in the hospital (except when she had to get help pooping), and she came home with us the moment I was discharged. Those 3 things alone made my experience in the first three days of her life magical for me. In the hospital, Nick looked at me and said “Rachel, why are you smiling?” I was looking at our beautiful baby girl and was just smiling but I didn’t realize it. That’s when I knew things were different. Really different. I was different. If you remember, I never had that with my boys and I carried that resentment with me the past (almost) 2 years.

Side note: I didn’t realize that I had carried it that long until Madison was here and all of a sudden I felt…. FREE. Happy. Joyful. Completely and totally in love. Not just with her, but with my calling to be a mother to her, my boys and our two other children in waiting. She made that happen for me and I am awestruck by her.

Frankly, before her birth, I was so scared to be back at Hermann after what I had been through with the twins. And even though she was full term and most likely, not going to be in the NICU – I’ve learned, you just never know. It was until she was in my arms almost 24:7 in that hospital that I believed she would stay with me. No one would take her from me and we would get to go home with her. That, my friends, is some kind of feeling I can’t even describe.

Madison is 2 weeks old and she’s still with me. We are connected so tightly I’m not sure I ever want her out of my sight anytime soon. That’s just the honest truth.

When the boys were 2 weeks old, we were preparing to MOST LIKELY take them home the next day (if everything went to plan and they past their tests). When I say I was traumatized by my delivery and NICU experience, I was. The nurses were absolutely wonderful but it didn’t take away the pain. I was depressed, angry, frustrated, sad, and every emotion in between. I refused to get back on medication until I was about 6 weeks postpartum. I rarely slept in my bed when the boys were in the NICU. I didn’t understand what was happening to me. I didn’t understand how I could be so angry when I was given the blessing of two thriving beautiful children despite their early delivery. Honestly, I can’t even begin to go into the depths of that anger. Some of it is very private and has nothing to do with my twin pregnancy but it affected my twin pregnancy. Hope that makes sense. And honestly that’s the beast of postpartum depression/anxiety, you just don’t know why some things are happening and why you are feeling the way you are feeling. It’s horrible. But can be managed with help. So if it’s happening to you, please get help. You’re worth it.

Fast forward to Madison, I made a huge effort to get CONSISTENT HELP by staying in therapy. In the last month of the pregnancy I resumed medication (Zoloft this time around) as I felt the “torture” of the end of pregnancy was screwing with me big time. And wow. It helped take the edge off during those last few weeks – not enough to make me smile all the time – but enough so I could sleep and cope. But the effects after pregnancy is where I’m really seeing the benefit. And I’m a better mother because of it.

I’ve been feeling great. Yes, I’ve had my moments because of being tired and my body healing from the surgery. But overall, I feel better. Now, I haven’t had a huge amount of time alone with all three kids yet, but when I have and even those things weren’t too bad. I definitely have to roll with things a bit more when I’m alone  with them while she’s so little and needing more of my attention but that’s okay. I’ve had to roll with a lot since having the twins in the first place so we continue on living the chaotic life. 😂

So sweet baby Madison, thank you for being here. You are such a blessing to our family.

Love,

Rachel

Moments

Hold them close

Moments. We all have them multiple times a day. We have good ones and bad ones. Many times we miss moments. We don’t miss them intentionally; it’s really the hustle and bustle of life that causes us to just let them pass by.

Personally, I feel like I’m so busy some days that by the end of the day I don’t even know if I actually SAW my children (even though they were around me all day). Other days, I’m just trying to survive this moment or that moment. Do you ever feel like that? Maybe it’s not with your children but with work or your spouse? When I was teaching, there were definitely days I just trying to survive. It’s honestly DRAINING to stay in survival mode. I absolutely can’t stand those days because I usually feel more exhausted than if I had one full of activities. I don’t want to just survive life, I want to LIVE it. Don’t you? But how do you live every single day IN THE MOMENT? Is it possible? We could all learn to take a step back and “smell the roses” sometimes. It’s so insane how fast time flies, yet, we tend to let a lot of life pass us by. Sounds sad but it’s the truth.

For me, I do wish I was better at living in the moment. There are times I put my phone away or I’m not checking it as much but I could always do better in that department. We probably all could. It’s so easy to drown yourself in mindless searching or reading articles. Then there are times I turn the TV off – I like it for background sound but it tends to even eat up the moments with all the sound, too. Plus, the twins are paying more and more attention to it these days so it’s a good habit to scale back.

The moments I really love watching are the ones where my boys are playing. Now I do mean all 3 of my boys but watching the twins play is becoming more fun too! They are really trying to talk and they crack me up! And of course, they are becoming more fearless – see evidence in the above left picture. They REALLY LIKE READING and lately I’ve been catching them sitting together with a book “reading”. It’s so cute! They also really love telling Dakota she’s a “good gurl” – haha! Oh and they are masters at saying “NO” or “NO WAY!”. But either way, they do keep Nick and I on our toes. We couldn’t have more of a stubborn pair of children but we knew it was going to happen. My guess is that this little girl might be surpassing them all! Stay tuned. 😊 Lately, the boys, specifically David, really hates wearing clothes. It’s either shorts or a shirt or nothing. Tonight, he went to bed in his diaper. I just usually pray I don’t wake up to pee and poop everywhere because they do like to take their diapers off.

Something I really enjoy are those fleeting moments, the ones you miss once you blink but if you catch them they are ingrained in your mind forever. I had one with Andrew today… It was so sweet. I broke down and gave the boys bottles this morning…. A Monday after a week of being sick is pretty slow going… They were drinking them while watching some Fixer Upper (it’s educational, right?) until Andrew just couldn’t calm down. I really don’t know what was going on. He had a BIG quiver lip and I just scooped him up and cradled him in my arms like I use to when he was much smaller. With the boys wanting to be more independent, holding him like that doesn’t really happen anymore. I barely get snuggles! 😭

He and I had a moment. I SAW him. He looked so much older but somehow I still saw my little fussy reflux baby. Maybe it’s the hormones or the impending new arrival of the girl but I miss them. I miss my babies. It’s incredible how much you forget along the way (and we’ve only just begun) but in a second you’re taken back to a moment. It sends a jolt in your body and you’ve time traveled to that memory.

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This picture is one of my favorites. I’m so happy I was obsessively taking pictures in the beginning because a lot of it is hard to remember between the reflux, feedings, and sleep deprivation. Nick was probably at RCIA working on becoming a Catholic so I had the evening with the boys. When they were much younger they both wanted to be near me ALL THE TIME. Makes sense, they were new to the world (the world is scary!). They needed mommy. (Oh how I miss those moments, too). They were also small enough I could have one on a boppy and another in my arms. In this picture, I got David to fall asleep on the boppy pillow and Andrew was in my arms. I’m sure at one point it was the opposite and I somehow creatively switched them without moving but I’m glad I captured this moment.

1. Because Andrew hardly took a pacifier outside of the first few months of life. Quite honestly, I don’t remember it much even then.

2. Because I need to remember I am a rock star. I definitely didn’t give myself enough credit at that time and I am not sure I do now. But I need to. I deserve it. I don’t mean for it to sound like I’m tooting my own horn here but I did a lot of things I didn’t know I was capable of including growing them in my body.

But how I miss holding them both so close to me. ❤️️ I probably needed to pee really bad and I was far from exhausted but they were so sweet to hold like this. I need to remember missing that when they are clawing or pushing at my leg or grabbing at my food. Or just when I don’t think I want to be touched one.more.time that day.

I imagine all parents have these moments. As a fairly new mother of young kids and I feel like we are in the trenches most days but I’m sure my parents have had these moments. I’ll never forget something my dad told me after I graduated from college. He said “Life only goes faster after this.” And boy, was he right. (Don’t let him know that though. 😉 ). I blinked and it’s been almost 11 years since high school graduation, 7 from college and 5 since our wedding day. Where has the time gone? What’s happened since you blinked? I bet a lot! Have you made the most of it? I’m not sure I have.

So I’m working on embracing my moments with my boys, even the bittersweet ones, because soon enough we will all have new ones with the little girl. I hate change, even good ones. However, I do learn to embrace the change, eventually. 😉 This transition seems like it will be hard for me but I am comforted to know she belongs with us. She is needed here for my heart to feel whole. I can’t slow down time or redo yesterday but TODAY I can do something about.

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Here’s to the moments,

Rachel

Decisions

The road to IVF

The decisions Nick and I had to make after learning of our failed plan were not easy. You see, I was raised in the Catholic Church and very much still practiced my faith. As a Catholic, in-vitro-fertilization (also known as IVF), among other fertility treatments, are not accepted. In fact, they are considered morally wrong to engage in. I knew this, hence the reason we wanted to avoid it at all costs. And actually, at the time, I was completely against it. However, unless you’ve ever been faced with being told you have a less than 5% chance of conceiving naturally and your body is essentially working against you to have a biological child, please reserve your judgment. I’m not looking for a fight or an argument about “my sin” but merely just sharing how we got to that point.

In the next weeks (we really didn’t have time to make a choice as my condition was worsening by the second), we talked to a lot of people – Catholics, Protestants, priests, and people who went through the fertility process. My wonderful husband was willing to go to the ends of the Earth to make this happen for us and what was important to him was that we “gave it our all”; essentially “tried everything we could” to have a baby. If we still ended up with no baby, then we tried. We would look into other options, like adoption, if that was the path we were meant to be on. While what he said made sense and I just wanted to fall completely into that idea and not look back, I wanted to make sure my heart was in the right place. I wanted to make sure I would have no regrets. This was also an expensive decision and I was feeling super guilty I was the one that brought us to this place. I know it was out of my control, but the guilt was real.

While everyone was super great in listening to our concerns and helping us through this decision (as best as anyone could), we were directed to this great Catholic couple and via email she helped me more than anyone. She said TWO things to me that have stuck with me through these years:

1. Her and her husband made a decision BEFORE the IVF process started that however many children they were blessed with in the process, they vowed to transfer them all in their lifetime.

2. That no matter what they did as a couple, if God’s plans were for them NOT to have children, it won’t happen. Science is great but if science REALLY could circumvent God’s will, then everyone who went through IVF or fertility, in general, would have children.

Let me talk about the impact these two points made on us. The first one was right in line with how I felt about helping create these embryos. THESE EMBRYOS were going to be OUR CHILDREN and I couldn’t bear to not try to conceive them. I won’t go into every detail of the fertility process but many embryos are put up for adoption, abandoned, or given to science for testing. Neither one of these options were the paths that Nick and I wanted to go down so vowing to have however many children God will bless us with was something we felt we could commit to BEFORE we started. Let me tell you, we could have ended up with no children or eleven children, we had no idea! And even now, there are still no guarantees. 

The second point really hit home. We had no idea what we were really getting ourselves into and my naivety about the process led me to just believe we would have children. I mean we were going through all this and paying for it, why wouldn’t we have kids? Well, it’s about a 65% chance of conceiving when you transfer one embryo which is much better than what we were looking at naturally, but still not great. With the twins, we were looking at a slightly higher percentage of having one baby and a 25% chance of having twins. The process of taking all the medications and going through the procedures essentially had to be perfect to even get to the transfer of an embryo. What I am trying to say is that throughout the entire process, ANYTHING could have gone wrong. We could have faced financial hardship and not being able to afford the treatment which is in the tens of thousands of dollars range. My body could have failed to respond to the medications. The procedure to retrieve the eggs could have been unsuccessful. The combining of the sperm and egg could have failed and then the embryos themselves could have failed to multiply and grow correctly. Every single part had to work. Science is a wonderful gift but it’s not fool-proof. 

Nick and I confidently decided to go forth with IVF. The IVF journey is a beast and not one I will tackle in this post. However, we were blessed with 5 embryos. 5 children. Our children. Our family of 7. But this family of 7 has to wait a little bit.

Many people…..most people, go through this life not knowing how many children they will have but we do. We know. At that moment, when we got the call of how many embryos survived, we knew we had 5 beautiful children awaiting their lives with us. That knowledge right there was absolutely the hardest part for me to emotionally handle. You see, I knew I had 5 children but I could only transfer 2 of them the first time around. I was lucky enough that both the embryos took. But during that pregnancy (it was tough so I had a lot of down time), all I could think of were my other babies. I had a lot of guilt for not being able to have them at that moment. I know in my mind I couldn’t but it still hurt. I am their mommy and needed to protect them and I couldn’t. Now, I am sitting here feeling my little wiggle worm rolling around in my stomach – my 3rd baby. My baby girl. I couldn’t be more excited to have her with us now. But my heart is not yet complete. It hurts a little less this time around then when I was carrying the boys but it still hurts. It’s so unexpected how the pain of infertility continues to creep into my heart and mind. I have no regrets whatsoever.

Although, I am so excited to have the life I have with the twins and soon to be with little miss, there is not a single day that goes by I don’t think about my two children waiting for us. I always say to myself when I start thinking of them: “Daddy and I will come and get you one day. We will. We promise. You won’t be alone anymore. We love you so much.” In a way, it’s comforting because I feel like they are close but in another way it breaks me. And although it’s a pain I cannot even begin to describe and tears roll down my face, I know we will bring them home one day. That day, will be the best day of our lives because our family will finally be complete. 

 

Here’s to the loves of my life in waiting,

Rachel

Fantasy vs. Reality

Accepting change

Over the last 3 or so years, I have been seeing a counselor. Sometimes consistently and sometimes not. Usually when I am not seeing her consistently is when I really should be – funny how that works. In actuality, it’s really not funny. It’s actually pretty stressful for me when I take breaks for extended periods of time. Anyway, my counselor has been key in helping me sort through many of my life changes. I don’t know if it’s HER or if it’s just the fact that I have someone outside of my life to talk to; an objective person helps so much. If you haven’t tried it, you should!

Fantasy vs. Reality is a hot topic in our sessions. Fantasy – what you think or dream up to be in a given situation. Reality – the actual situation at hand. Some people can just roll with whatever happens in the reality even if it’s different from what they thought; whereas, others (**cough, me, cough**) have a harder time coping with the change. I’ve generally had a harder time adjusting to given changes in my life ever since I can remember. As I have gotten older, I’ve coped with some changes and have had harder time with others. I mainly struggle with the ones that have drastically changed from what *I thought* would be how life would work out.

For example, one thing that I thought would be easy would be having children. Isn’t this what we all think? At least, what we all think when we don’t have any perceived medical diagnosis, anyway? You get married, buy a house and have children. After all, it’s the “usual way” people do things. Now, I realize not everyone does this in that order and that’s totally fine. But this is what I thought it would be for me and my husband.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t that easy. Actually it was the exact opposite. About 3 years into our marriage and 2 years of no baby, I became suspicious of a possible issue. Nick and I were open to having kids but it wasn’t an intentional act of trying and tracking; however, I felt something wasn’t right. In the summer of 2014, after finally convincing my husband of doing some tests, we found ourselves at the Houston Fertility Institute at their Sugar Land, Texas location. We were told in our initial consultation that couples have a 25% chance of conceiving in their first year of trying (that’s WITHOUT any perceived issues) and then after that the numbers drop significantly: down to 5% per year and it lowers every year after that. Talk about a punch in the gut! We were in our second year of being open to children and BOOM, a scientific kick in the pants.

We went on to do some testing. I was having feminine issues with my cycle anyway and during “that time of the month” having a lot of pain. Anyway, the results from my tests weren’t good. I had stage 3 to stage 4 endometriosis. According to Mayo Clinic, endometriosis “is an often painful disorder in which tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus — the endometrium — grows outside your uterus. Endometriosis most commonly involves your ovaries, fallopian tubes and the tissue lining your pelvis. Rarely, endometrial tissue may spread beyond pelvic organs” (http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/endometriosis/home/ovc-20236421).

I don’t think I could have been more devastated. This is not what I dreamed up, remember? This is not how it was supposed to be for us. This made our chances of having a baby even less. Unfortunately, if we wanted to do any fertility treatments it could and would make the disease worse as it feeds off estrogen in your body; so, if we did do anything, we would be taking the risk of making this worse for us. We just weren’t ready to take that risk. In fact, we were actually trying to avoid it as much as possible. I was 25 years old – this shouldn’t be happening. 

Nick and I opted for me to undergo surgery to remove as much of the endometriosis as possible so we could possibly try to conceive on our own. Here’s the deal: endometriosis grows microscopically so anything they could see and remove, they would but it didn’t mean I was necessarily in the clear. It’s constantly growing. So following the procedure, I would have monthly injections that would essentially put me into menopause to try to reduce the legions as much as possible. I wasn’t too excited about it. Surgery, in general, is usually pretty rough for me – I’ve had a few in my life to know the general gist of what would happen post-op. My body takes forever to get rid of the anesthesia.

The laparoscopic procedure was slated for 90 minutes. The doctor would blow my stomach up with air so they could see the organs and be able to manipulate them to burn off the legions – hopefully without damaging any other organs. The worse part of it was that my ovaries had huge cysts on them. Taking those out wouldn’t be easy and in fact, it would be so important for the doctor to be precise as to not damage my ovaries further. Every time they take a cyst out, they would be taking part of my ovary (not enough to cause permanent infertility but that was definitely a risk). Then, there’s the whole we “really don’t know what it will be like until we are in there” uncertainty and you always hope it’s better than the doctors expect. 

Little did I know this 90-minute-you’ll-be-back-on-your-feet-in-3-days procedure, turned into blowing my stomach up a second time and a 3 hour procedure. Of course, I didn’t know any of this until I woke up from the surgery. The whole 3 days back on your feet was a LOAD OF CRAP. It took me well over a month to feel “normal” again. You know that fantasy vs. reality thing I was talking about before – yep, I was not happy. In fact, I was angry. Well, let me take a step back – I was very glad the doctor took her time – I had such a bad cyst on my fallopian tube that had she not taken her time, I could have lost it or woken up with a cut open abdomen. So, I am very thankful that. But I was still mad. I was so uncomfortable for weeks! Have you ever had gas pumped in your stomach for any procedure, IT IS AWFUL! Again, this is not what I was expecting. And I had a very hard time accepting that.

Honestly, this whole time I had a hard time dealing with the reality of what was happening and how this was my fault. My body’s fault. Nick, in no way, made me feel this way – this was something I was personally dealing with. In fact, he was amazing during this process. I think if you are the one with the diagnosis in the relationship, it’s normal to have these feelings. But it still sucks, to say the least.

By September 2014, I was on those menopause shots. Okay, again – totally not fun. Talk about a wild roller coaster of emotions, literally. But this, again, was our best chance to combat the endometriosis from growing back quickly and to potentially start trying when all this was over. A medically induced menopause at 25 years old – that was really hard to wrap my mind around it. I wasn’t supposed to have a cycle while on this medicine…..until I did. THAT WAS AWFUL. If you’re a girl, you know an unexpected period isn’t fun at all. Nope. Not at all.

After 3 months on the shots, I had an ultrasound in December 2014 and I was devastated. The cysts had grown back. Not as big but they were there which meant the shots really didn’t help. Maybe they did a little bit but the cysts were there. THE CYSTS WERE THERE! SERIOUSLY WHAT THE HELL! I was screaming inside on that table. I felt like I had put my body and my mental health through absolute torture the last 6 months! For what!?!

Nick and I ended up right where we didn’t want to be…..

Facing the biggest personal and financial decision of our lives…..

Here’s to everything in between (including the crap),

Rachel