That belly, though

We’ve made it to the final, swollen stretch!  I can’t believe how much my body has grown to house these babies–that belly astounds me every time I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror!

I’ve had ultrasounds twice a week for a while now, mainly to monitor the excess fluid in Baby Boy’s amniotic sac.  Those bi-weekly glimpses of their growing limbs and beating hearts are amazing every time, even though it’s now so cramped in there that I can barely make out what is showing up on the screen!  Our last growth estimate was over a week ago, and both babies were estimated at over 6 pounds apiece (Baby Girl at 6 pounds 1 ounce, Baby Boy at 6 pounds 10 ounces!), so I think we may be looking at 7 pounders by the time they arrive on Friday.

Proof of their growth can be seen in my ever-expanding midsection.  Below, the latest belly photos, weeks 37 (top) through 34 (L – R).

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My bags are packed

Okay, they’ve been packed for weeks.  You may remember a similar post from a few years back, when I had my bags all packed for our hospital stay after Natalie’s birth.  As much as I tried to “pack light” when pregnant with Nat, I still overdid it and brought way more than we needed.  At the last minute, I tossed in extra clothes, toiletries, entertainment, etc. that I never touched.  This time around, I have tried to stick to a lighter load of essentials that I know I’ll need. We’l see how I feel once I’m there, but I think we’ve covered our bases pretty well!

I’ve had bags packed since I was 28 weeks pregnant, at the advice of my OB.  The majority of multiples births are the result of preterm labor, and she encouraged us to be prepared. It  has felt strange to see those bags just hangin’ out waiting for us over the past months, but even stranger to think that we’ll actually be USING their contents in mere days!

First, a reminder about what the hospital will provide, which guided my packing quite a bit this time around.  For me, they’ll have hospital gowns, mesh undies, jumbo pads, compression socks, post-surgery girdle/belly band, and breast pumping options (handheld or electric).  The cafeteria will provide our meals, and plenty of snacks and juice are at the ready from the amazing nursing staff. For babies, they’ll have clothes, diapers, bathing essentials, swaddling blankets, and anything else they will need during our stay.  We also live very close to our hospital (less than a 10 minute drive) and my parents will be staying with Natalie at our house, so we have quick and easy access to anything we may decide we need from home!

With that in mind, my recommended list of stuff for babies is:

  • going home outfits, with hats and mittens (we have a set of lightweight sleepers and a set of heavier fleece sleepers)
  • car seats, installed with covers in case it’s cold (hello, Maine in March)
  • a couple of receiving blankets that will feel more special than the hospital-issued ones, which we’ll want when taking some photos of the little bundles

For me, we’ve packed a snack bag and a “stuff” bag, which includes:

  • two lightweight nursing nightgowns and a lightweight bathrobe
  • going home outfit (loose, high-waisted sweats that won’t irritate my incision, a pair of flip-flops to cram my swollen feet into, and an oversized button down)
  • toiletries (I’ll be there at least two nights, so a shower is a definite–I’m bringing shampoo & conditioner, unscented body lotion, makeup removing wipes and face lotion, and plenty of hair ties)
  • makeup (not for a full face, but some tinted face lotion, concealer, chapstick, and blush will help me feel human for photos!)
  • pillows for both of us, one boppy pillow, and an extra blanket for Mike’s cot
  • phones, Mike’s tablet, and our laptop (with cords!)
  • camera and extra batteries, plus our battery charger
  • gifts for Natalie from the babies
  • snack bag (with juice boxes, instant oatmeal, trail mix, granola bars, and an enormous water bottle)

 

Preparing for Twins: Part 2

Preparing our home for twins has been a challenge, to say the least.  We currently live in a 2-bedroom duplex (we live on one side and rent out the other side), which feels like tight living quarters for just the three of us.  Our house was on the market for a year, and we will list again this spring in hopes that it will sell and we can buy something big enough for our family of 5.  If we’re not able to sell, we’re prepared to hunker down and make do with a small space until I am back at work full time.  Because I won’t be working next year, we have to be cautious about jumping into a new living space that will be impossible to afford on one income.

To prepare for the possibility of squeezing three kids into a 2-bedroom home, we swapped sleeping quarters with Natalie over Christmas break.  She is now in the bigger bedroom, where two cribs will be added if needed.  The babies will be in our room overnight for the first several months of their lives anyway, and getting Natalie into the bigger room meant some of her toys could move from our common living space into her new bedroom.

Aside from decluttering our living space and making tentative steps towards a shared bedroom for all of the kids, we tried to make sensible decisions about what baby gear was essential, what we definitely needed two of, and what we could do without altogether.  Ask me how accurate this list is when we’re a few months in with twins… 🙂  Here’s our list of essentials, including links to the brands I chose after lots of research:

Twin-specific necessities:

  • Pack’n’Play with double bassinets
  • Double stroller that’s compatible with our car seats (we got a used one in beautiful condition for a steal)
  • Double jogging stroller (we were gifted one second hand)
  • Double baby carrier(s) – these are our picks: front/back and side/side
  • Breastfeeding support pillow (I still have my Boppy and a friend gave me hers, so we will have two to use for tummy and play time, but feeding two at once will require the big one!)

Double up on:

  •  car seats & bases
  • cribs (We are choosing separate sleeping quarters from the get-go! We’ll use Natalie’s old crib and a used one gifted to us by a friend)
  • diapers & wipes (disposables for the first month, switching to cloth sometime thereafter)
  • Bumbo seats (Natalie’s old one & one used that was gifted by a friend)
  • clothes, bibs, blankets, and burp cloths (we have a combination of Natalie’s old clothes and used/new stuff gifted by friends and family)
  • high chairs
  • swings
  • bottles & milk storage
  • grocery cart hammocks (a luxury item, but one I hope will get lots of use while I’m doing errands on my own next year with two babes in tow!)

Stick with one:

  • changing table (we have a used one gifted by a friend)
  • play mat
  • breast pump (double electric covered by our insurance)
  • diaper pail & wet bag
  • video monitor
  • dresser (we got a HUGE one at a discount furniture place that has enough drawers to separate gender-neutral and gender-specific clothes)
  • diaper bag (we’re using the same oversized one we had with Nat)
  • white noise machine
  • infant tub

We have been incredibly lucky that generous friends and family have gifted us with almost everything we need for these babies.  I’m sure there will be things we considered essential with Natalie that we end up rarely using, and things that we end up finding we can’t live without that we had originally dismissed…. but only time will tell!  I plan to do an updated “essentials for twins” post when we’re a few months into their lives.

 

The growing bump

We’re in the home stretch at last!  I am still amazed every day at how much my body is stretching to accommodate these two growing babies.  At 33 weeks I’ve gained 40 pounds and can feel it everywhere.  I’m officially in the uncomfortable stage of my 3rd trimester, and end most days struggling to find a position that provides some relief.

I’ve found that when I’m active (I try to squeeze in laps through our labyrinth of a school building every day) I can manage the discomfort better, and sitting is the hardest on my body.  I’m not sure if it’s just sitting in hard chairs or that the act of sitting causes my stomach to pull on my back in a different way, but the days when my lesson plans involve more seat time leave me in agony by the time I get home.  Mike pampers me with nightly backrubs, and I spend most evenings lying down on my side after plenty of stretching.

Here are the latest belly photos, including 32 (at the top), 31, 26, and 23 weeks (on the bottom, L-R):

Preparing for Twins: Part 1

When Mike and I found out we were having twins, we were truly shocked.  There’s simply no preparing for that type of news, and I don’t know how to explain how overwhelmed we felt when we received it.  That overwhelmed feeling hasn’t completely gone away, but we have come to terms with the reality that our family will change overnight.  The emotional preparation for these babies has been intense, but ultimately we know that they will complete our family and bring joy beyond measure into our lives.  I thought I’d write a couple of posts about how we are preparing our home physically (baby gear & space) for the twinners, and how we are preparing financially for my extended leave from work.

One of our biggest fears in welcoming TWO babies is that we simply won’t be able to afford it.  The costs of diapers, childcare, double gear, double clothes, double EVERYTHING felt like an insurmountable hurdle at first.  We’ve had to accept that things will cost more and we will have to make do with less.  It was a tough reality to face at first, but accepting it made it feel much easier to move on and start planning.

We decided pretty quickly that I would not only take a traditional 12-week maternity leave (bringing me up to the end of the school year) but also a yearlong leave of absence from work so I can stay home with the babies.  Emotionally, this felt like the right thing to do for our family, and financially it will save us the cost of childcare for a year (despite cutting our household income in half).  Additionally, coordinating pumping, getting 5 of us out the door every morning, and all the other logistics of daily life with TWO babies was more than we were willing to take on.

It’s impossible to fully prepare for next year without my income, but we’ve tried to take some steps to make that time feel less daunting:

  • choosing cloth over disposable diapers (ask me in a few months about this one…)
  • accepting all offers of help and baby gear (Yes, I’ll gladly take those baby clothes off your hands and Of course we would love to have you on deck to baby-sit)
  • starting to limit how much my current paycheck is used to pay our household bills, so we get used to living on Mike’s salary alone
  • using my paycheck in very specific ways: paying down debt (which we know we’ll accrue again over the next year), buying essential baby gear, and purchasing gift cards for us to use next year (during every pay period, I buy a gift card to our local grocery store, a small gift card to a place we are likely to do Christmas and other luxury shopping, and occasionally a small gift card to a family-friendly restaurant so we can look forward to a meal out)

It’s likely that Mike will take on part-time work over the summer and that I’ll do the same after the babies are 6 months old.  It’s going to be tough, there’s no way around it, but it’ll be temporary.  Our bank account may dwindle, but our hearts will be full.

Babying the Bump: Part 3

This third and final installment about caring for a body pregnant with twins is all about the balance of rest and exercise.  I was consistently active through my first trimester, but I’ve definitely slowed down over the past few weeks.   Moderate exercise is recommended during a multiples pregnancy (walking, yoga, swimming, etc.) for women who are not already high-performance athletes.  As someone who was not training for a marathon pre-pregnancy, I have stuck with the moderate, low-impact recommendation.  So far, that’s meant walking a few days a week and stretching daily.  As sidewalks become slippery and snow-covered, I know I’ll need to look for some indoor options to replace walking outside.  The Y has an indoor track, and I have already started compiling some prenatal yoga videos to keep this body moving through the winter.

Natalie likes to follow the “Baby Yoga” poses from a book gifted by her yogi godmother as part of her bedtime routine, so she and I typically settle in for some mutual stretching time around 6:30 each night.  My back has that familiar ache I remember so well from my third trimester with Natalie, and a good long stretch is one of the only things that provides some relief.  Luckily, Mike is game for the only other form of relief I’ve found so far–a nightly massage.  I’m sure that pretty soon I’ll be investing in a maternity belt to help take the strain of my growing bump off my lower back, but I haven’t quite succumbed to that phase yet.

Other than a brisk (ha, not so brisk these days….) walk and light stretching, I am mostly listening to my body’s cry for rest.  Exhaustion has taken over in full force since about 19 weeks, and I usually yawn my way through my 5th period class each day.  My middle schoolers have been pretty tolerant of my need to sit at the end of the day, and I usually come home for a nap (or at least to lie down) by around 4 o’clock.  When I shared that my body is feeling more and more wiped out with my OB, she smiled and said, “Oh, that’s going to get a lot worse.”  I’m not sure how much more tired a pregnant body can feel, but I guess I’ll find out soon enough.  I’m following my doc’s advice to listen to my body and rest, rest, rest, even if it means I’m not following much of an exercise plan.

 

Halfway there!

My prenatal appointment last week was not only exciting because it involved our full anatomy scan, but also because my OB said it was time to schedule Herbert & Sherbert’s birthday!  We’re on the calendar for bright and early on March 18th, a Friday, assuming no complications (like preterm labor signs) come up in the meantime.  That will put me at just over 38 weeks when the little munchkins arrive, which means I’m over halfway through this twin-gestating adventure.  Yikes!

Here are the latest bump photos (19 – 22 weeks):

A peek inside: 21 weeks

Our anatomy scan at 21 weeks was a lengthy process–70 pictures apiece of our growing babes and their little parts.  My appointment was scheduled for early afternoon, which meant we’d need to pull Natalie out of school in order for Mike to come with me.  We decided that since the three of us had all been there for the big gender reveal at 16 weeks, we wouldn’t take Natalie out of school for another appointment.  Instead, my mom and dad tagged along for this peek inside my belly.

We were relieved to see that both babies are growing right on track, each measuring around the 45th percentile.  Knowing that they are average size for a singleton pregnancy is a huge weight off my shoulders and the reassurance I need that my crazy food-focus is paying off.

Here they are, starting with Baby Girl:

21 Weeks - Baby A Girl 121 Weeks - Baby A Girl 2

Poor thing is still a bit squished down at the bottom of my uterus, which made measuring her head (which was crammed down toward my right hip) a challenge.  She had a strong heartbeat and gave us lots of entertaining wiggles throughout her scan.

Baby Boy:21 Weeks - Baby B Boy 121 Weeks - Baby B Boy 3

He sits higher up in my belly, and is definitely the more aggressive kicker of the two.  I can feel her shifting and rolling low in my belly, while I feel him rearing back and kicking hard up toward my ribs.  While we were watching the anatomy scan, I saw the great force he’s using to donkey-kick backwards from a curled up position–it was incredible to see what’s causing those jabs!

They are both moving regularly enough that I can feel them throughout the day, and spend time nightly with a glass of cold water counting kicks.  Natalie has finally felt some strong kicks, which has made the pregnancy feel even more exciting.  Her belly rubs and kisses are simply too sweet!

Babying the Bump: Part 2

This growing belly requires an awful lot of fuel to keep it going!  A twin pregnancy requires between 500 and 700 additional calories a day (a rule of thumb is 300 additional calories per baby, per day) to keep everyone growing at a healthy rate.  This pretty much means I’m eating every 3 hours, which didn’t feel as necessary when I was pregnant with Natalie.  It’s a big shift from the diet changes Mike and I took on during and after our Whole 30 experience last winter, and I often feel like my entire day revolves around food.

My weekdays are pretty structured, thanks to my school-day schedule.  This means my eating habits Monday through Friday are incredibly predictable, which is way better than my Saturday/Sunday snack-fests.  My body does much better with a routine!

A typical day of eating while carrying Flotsam and Jetsam looks like this:

6am – Breakfast (2 eggs over easy with half an avocado and whole wheat toast or English muffin); my sole cup of coffee with half & half; 6 oz of cranberry or grape juice, to wash down my supplements (prenatal vitamin, probiotic, calcium with vitamin D, fish oil, and extra vitamin C)

7:30am – ginger/lemon herbal tea

8:45am – Snack (Greek yogurt or banana with almond butter)

11:45am – Lunch (typically leftovers that will include protein, a starch, and green vegetable and a small fruit salad of melon/pineapple/berries/kiwi) with what remains of my first 20 oz water bottle of the day

2:15pm – Snack (banana or apple with cashews) and the remainder of my second 20 oz water bottle

5:30pm – Supper (protein, starch, green vegetable) with more water

7:30pm – Snack (usually cereal with milk) with more water

My goal is a gallon of water a day, and roughly 2800 calories.  I don’t count calories AT ALL anymore, but try to eat foods that are high in protein and fiber, and listen to my body when it’s full.  As my uterus expands, I know my stomach will feel full more quickly and it will be tougher to get in all the nutrients I need in my third trimester.  My weight goal has been 28 pounds by 28 weeks, and my OB has urged 35 – 45 pounds of total weight gained by my delivery date.  At 22 weeks, I’m 23.5 pounds up from my pre-pregnancy weight, which feels just about right.

Next in taking care of this growing bump:  Exercise and Rest

Babying the Bump: Part 1

As this belly of mine stretches and strains with each passing week, I’ve been thinking about the ways this pregnancy has been different than my first go round.  Much of my experience carrying twins (so far) has echoed my time with Natalie in utero, but there are some differences in the way I need to treat my body that I wanted to record here on the blog.  Namely, the Big Three are: diet, exercise/rest, and skincare.  I’m going to devote a post to each, starting today with skin.

I remember battling some skin issues with Natalie (facial acne, rough skin on my upper arms, some belly itchiness in my third trimester, and a few stretch marks), but this time I feel like my body has turned on me from the start!  Restrictions on skincare products during pregnancy mean I can’t get overzealous in how I deal with these issues, but I’m finally finding a routine that seems to be working.

From the start of my pregnancy, I have battled blotchiness and acne (that pregnancy glow, I guess…).  A mild, natural body scrub has helped minimize some of the blotchy redness on my chest and arms, and I follow up with some Bio Oil a couple of times a week.  I’ve used apple cider vinegar as a toner on my face as needed, and tea tree oil in moderation has helped minimize some of the biggest whopper zits on my face, too (talk to your doctor before any essential oil use during pregnancy–and never ingest tea tree oil during pregnancy!).

I’m sure I won’t escape stretch marks on my belly this time around (with Natalie, the worst of the tiger stripes were on my breasts and upper thighs), and my belly has already started itching like crazy.  That “my skin is going to rip open if it keeps growing” feeling is also in full force already, and I’m just barely over halfway through this belly-expansion project.  I used a variety of belly butter concoctions with my first pregnancy, I am sticking with Palmer’s exclusively these days.  It provides the most immediate relief to the itchiness, smells mild, and absorbs quickly enough that I don’t end up with oily residue all over my maternity pants.

Up next…. Part 2:  Multiples Pregnancy Diet