More than halfway there! Goals for the second half of pregnancy.

I am now nearly 21 weeks along in my pregnancy and things are really picking up!  First of all, I can’t believe that I made it this far.  Getting into the 20s in terms of weeks seemed so far away, and now I’m here!  While I know that it does not mean things are safe, because there are no guarantees, it does give me some comfort to know that even if I deliver in a few weeks, my babies would have a chance at surviving.  Since everything still looks good every time I go to the doctor, I have every reason to assume that I will make it several more weeks, and that gives me hope.

Secondly, the appointments!  Oh my goodness, all the appointments.  Now that I am farther along, I visit the MFM every two weeks, as well as the regular OB every 4 weeks.  This week I managed to have 3 appointments, because I had my anatomy scan with the MFM, then an appointment with the regular OB two days later.  At the OB I mentioned that my left ankle and foot has been swelling (little to no swelling in the right side), which meant another emergency ultrasound a few hours later to rule out a blood clot.  Thankfully everything was okay, it appears to just be normal pregnancy swelling and this hot weather we’ve been having.  But suddenly I have gone from feeling like time stretches indefinitely in between appointments to having an appointment just about every week!  I also have a fetal echocardiogram scheduled at 23 weeks, which is in addition to all of the other appointments.  It seems like I’m always signing out of work early or showing up to work late now.  And soon there will be even more appointments, once the weekly MFM visits and then twice-weekly non-stress tests begin!  Oh boy.  At least I get to see my girls often.

It suddenly feels like I have so little time to get everything ready.  My goal is to have everything ready by 30 weeks, because after that it seems like I could go into labor any time.  The goal is to make it to 37 weeks (well, my personal, slightly selfish goal is 36 weeks…but still a long time from now), but so many women with twins go into labor at 31, 32, 33 weeks.  I want to at least have my hospital bag packed by then, as well as own and organize all the essentials that I will need by the time the babies come home from the hospital.  My husband also has several home improvement projects he wants to get done before the girls arrive, but he is so busy with work that I don’t know when they will all happen.  Things feel a bit rushed now.

Money concerns.  I feel a bit guilty every time I spend money on baby items, because I feel like maybe I should try harder to find things for free or cheap.  But honestly, many items it just seems easier and more sanitary and more convenient to buy online new rather than hunt down and clean used items.  I feel guilty because I am going to stay home once these babies are born, hopefully for a few years at least, and so my source of income will dry up within a few months.  I also have so many copays from doctors visits now, and the MFM copay is higher than my regular OB copay.  $50 instead of $20.  It’s all worth it, of course, but by the end of this pregnancy all those copays will add up!  This is another reason why I want to buy everything before 30 weeks, because then I will start to have more frequent appointments and all the money that I would spend on baby stuff should be spent on copays, instead.

Symptoms lately:

  • Occasional nausea, especially after breakfast.  It seems to be worse on weekends.  My theory is that it’s because I sleep later on weekends and my eating schedule gets off, which seems to influence how nauseous I feel all day.
  • Extreme stuffiness.  I try to make it through the day without medication, but decongestant spray is part of my nightly routine so I can breathe throughout the night.
  • Trouble falling asleep most nights.  I feel wired at bedtime!  I still take unisom, partly for nausea but also because at least it helps me fall asleep a little.  I don’t know how long it would take me to fall asleep if I didn’t take it.  Perhaps a sign that I should stop drinking caffeine at lunch…(this will be easier in the summer!)
  • Stomach is getting bigger by the day!  However, it doesn’t feel that uncomfortable.  I am using belly butter to hopefully prevent stretch marks.
  • Braxton Hicks contractions.  I haven’t had very many of these, but on two occasions I have woken up in the middle of the night and notice I am having a contraction.  It goes away with some water and lying down on my side and deep breathing.  I think I have started to feel some mild ones while I am walking in the past week, especially when it is hot out.
  • Swelling in left leg.  As I mentioned earlier, it seems to be normal and probably related to the heat wave we have been experiencing this week.  It doesn’t hurt, but it sure doesn’t look pretty!
  • Not a huge appetite.  I certainly eat regularly and a fair amount, but I don’t usually feel ravenous and by the end of the day my stomach feels like it has been packed full.  I’m trying to just eat healthy foods when I do eat and not worry about the amount, because I’m gaining a healthy amount of weight and so are the babies.
  • Weight gain.  Of course.  However, I was happy to see that it seems to be leveling off a bit.  Between my visits to the OB from March to April, I gained 13 pounds!  In the past month between OB visits, I only gained 6 pounds.  That makes a total weight gain of about 26 pounds so far at almost 21 weeks.  It doesn’t make me happy to think about, but it’s necessary and not outside the range of normal, so I just have to trust that my body knows what it’s doing.
  • The girls are starting to kick HARD!  Over the past few weeks, they’re movements have progressed from occasional flutters to rather frequent and pronounced kicks and jabs.  They don’t hurt me yet, but I am wondering how they will feel in a month or so!  I’m glad to have such strong and active girls, though 🙂

I am grateful that I have not experienced several symptoms that seem to plague many women pregnant with twins at this stage, such as extreme fatigue or back pain.  Or really much pain at all!  Except sometimes abdominal pain when walking, I think from the weight and the stretching.  I do believe that exercise has helped.  This pregnancy does not feel that unnatural on my body, even though it has changed so much and I have gained so much weight.

Goals for the next 9 weeks (until 30 weeks):

  • Acquire all baby necessities and have them organized by function
  • Set up the nursery furniture
  • Set up a “feeding station” and a “bathing station”
  • Wash newborn clothes
  • Pack hospital bag
  • Complete hospital tour and have a plan for when I go into labor
  • Continue to save as much money as possible from each paycheck to create a nest egg for later
  • Deep clean house

So!  If I felt like the first half of pregnancy was somewhat boring and dragged on without much to do, the second half feels more like a whirlwind and frenzy of activity.  It is stressful, but it is exciting.  This is really happening!  I am really having twin girls!  I can feel them moving around inside of me every day!  I have seen them several times on the ultrasound screen.  I am finally getting ready.

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We’re having…

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Two girls!

At my last appointment at 17w3d, my doctor asked me if I wanted to know the genders.  I told her that if she could tell, then yes, we were very excited to know!  She looked for about two seconds and then promptly told me, “Well, that looks like a girl to me,” regarding Baby A.  She turned her attention to Baby B shortly after and told me, “Yep, that’s another girl.”  I asked her how certain she was since it’s still a little early for genders, and she said, “It’s definitive.”

And just like that, our lives as parents begin to take shape!  We can now begin to picture ourselves as parents to twin girls, rather than just “the twins.”  We can think of names, imagine them in little pink onesies, dream of our lives throughout the next several years raising little girls who will become big girls.  I am a mom to two GIRLS.

I’m so excited!  In some ways, it’s a little anticlimactic to find out, because I can’t (or shouldn’t) do anything about it for several weeks.  I should at least wait for my baby shower to buy girly things for them, because I have several friends who have already had girls and have plenty of stuff they can give me.  I should wait until my mother-in-law gives us money to buy cribs before I order them.  I should wait until I have cleaned and repainted the dresser to get any more clothes.  I should wait until the furniture in the room is set up to begin buying decorations.

But it’s SO hard to wait.  I just want to DO something.  I bought those two pink onesies in the picture to surprise my husband with the genders, since he was not at the ultrasound with me.  I couldn’t help myself, and I figured they’ll be able to use them later so it’s not wasteful.  It’s so hard to try to save money when your first two babies are on the way!

Staying in shape while pregnant with twins

Being in shape has always been very important to me.  Well, maybe not always…but certainly for the past 12 years or so, and definitely all of my adult life.

Before becoming pregnant, I always worried about how I would keep in shape during pregnancy.  Since becoming pregnant, I have realized a few things:

  1. Fitness doesn’t disappear overnight, and fitness prior to pregnancy will definitely help in efforts to stay in shape during pregnancy!  I am currently 17 weeks pregnant with twins and I’ve gained 20 pounds already, and I honestly feel pretty fantastic most of the time in terms of bodily comfort.  I still walk at least 5 miles most days (sometimes it’s up to 10, when we’re on vacation!) and I do a variety of prenatal fitness videos.  I carry on with my normal life routine without much discomfort.  I have to wear larger clothes and I can feel stretching in my body and the random ache here or there, but I can definitely tell that my high level of fitness prior to pregnancy has helped my body cope with the changes of pregnancy pretty gracefully so far.
  2. My body is going to change in pregnancy, regardless of whether I work out, so I might as well embrace that fact.  My thighs (always my struggle!) have definitely increased in size, even if it is only noticeable to me.  My slender waistline is thicker.  At times I think my face looks fuller (and very red!).  Perhaps I could starve myself to prevent areas other than my stomach from changing, but that would not be good for me or the babies, of course.  So I have come to terms with my changing shape, whether it is temporary or permanent.
  3. Even though I have reduced my exercise volume and intensity, the body works harder during pregnancy, so it all kinds of evens out.  I did not blow up overnight when I stopped running.  It is rather nice to have an excuse to take it easier for a few months.
  4. I care less about having the “perfect body” during pregnancy.  See #2.  My body is changing and I can’t really control it, but it is for a beautiful reason and would I really trade twin babies for slightly thinner thighs?
  5. I have gained a longer-term perspective on fitness.  When I am running every week, it is easy to get caught up in mileage and calories and never want to run fewer miles or burn fewer calories one week than I did the previous week.  It is easy to always set my expectations on doing more.  Now that I have been forced to back off, I see fitness as more of a lifelong pursuit.  I will certainly work hard to get back in shape after I give birth to these babies.  But it’s not a huge rush, and it’s not a competition, and (God willing) I will be alive for quite a long time so there is plenty of time to lose and sculpt and tone and create a new normal.  There is plenty of time to run and I think it’s interesting that so many women decide to take on the marathon after they have children.

 

So, how am I keeping in shape during this pregnancy?  As mentioned before, I walk, a lot.  I walk in the morning before work, I walk as much as I can throughout the work day, I walk after work.  I aim for at least 5 miles a day, 6 is more typical.  Unless I do workout videos, in which case I will generally walk less.

I have also taken advantage of NOT running all the time to engage in more strength training and varied cardio.  There are many prenatal videos online for free or very little cost.  Two series that I particularly enjoy is BabyFit by Amy (YouTube) and Gaiam: Summer Sanders’ Prenatal Workout (Amazon).  The first one is free, and the second one can be purchased for less than $10.  I enjoy the focus on taking care of the body and the importance of strengthening all parts of the body to deal with pregnancy, delivery and recovery, but without overly stressing the body.  It’s fun to try out new workouts and not worry about burning a certain number of calories or achieving a certain intensity!

I am grateful for the chance to step back and regain focus on what fitness is truly about–literally, being fit for what’s required.  Pregnancy is a great strain on the body, a twin pregnancy is an even greater strain, and my focus now is on having a body that is fit for the challenge.

On not running

My running journey began during the summer before my junior year of high school, when I decided to join my high school’s cross country team.  Now that I no longer was required to take gym, suddenly I wanted to run!  (Go figure….teenagers.)  Although I ended up injuring my knee before I could even compete in my first CC meet and had to sit the rest of the season out, and although I was the slowest one on the team, I was hooked.

In the first few years, my running would ebb and flow.  It wasn’t a strict routine, just something I did in spurts and at times I would take weeks or even months off.  But I would always come back.  And by the time I was in college, running was officially part of my weekly regimen.  I was more alone than I ever had been before, and I needed something to occupy all of the free time I suddenly had.  My eating disorder–which had developed in middle school and came and went throughout my high school years–also reared its head more powerfully once I suddenly had no restrictions.   Running felt like a way to keep myself in check and give myself some structure.  I decided to sign up for a race and followed my training plan as perfectly as I could.  I spent hours in the gym that I suddenly had access to, running speed workouts on the treadmill and then lifting weights and then going to a “Yoga for Runners” class.  I ran my easy runs in the morning before class (the only time I have been an early morning runner!).  I ran long runs every single weekend without fail, finally culminating in a scorching 9 mile run at my parents’ house which exceeded all of my notions about how far I could run.  All of my training must have paid off, because I ran 8k in record time (still haven’t beaten that record) and placed first for females in my age group (which was, admittedly, small).  Running had officially become an integral part of my personality, and I set my sights on longer distances and more races.

In the years since college, I have raced and not raced, I have run consistently and more sporadically, but running has been a mainstay in my life.  This increased even more when I met my husband, who was just getting into running seriously around the time that I met him.  Part of our pre-dating and early dating included running together, and he inspired me to set my sights on a goal I never thought I could achieve (a half marathon!) and to push myself to run faster than was comfortable for me (he is REALLY fast).  Now it was not only a part of me, it was a part of US, and we became the “fit” couple who plan vacations around outdoor activities and, more recently, races.  Who plans where to move at least partially based on running trails available in the area.  Who plan early Friday nights during marathon and half marathon training so that we’re well-rested for Saturday morning long runs, and plan where to eat based on carbing up before long runs and refueling with protein after long runs.  His running ramped up more and more throughout our relationship, and it only seemed fitting that mine would, too.

I love running for so many reasons.  In the beginning, running was generally a way to punish and restrict my body, to keep it a certain size.  Now, it has the benefit of helping me maintain an athletic and slender physique, but its benefits are so many.  For example:

  • It makes me crave, and gives me a good reason to eat, healthier foods
  • It makes me feel confident in my skin and makes my body feel good
  • It makes me feel content and balanced
  • It helps me sleep better
  • It keeps me healthy and prevents me from developing a lot of preventable chronic diseases
  • It gives me a community and something to always work towards
  • It gives me an easy way to workout–if you’re training for a race, you’re going to do several different types of running which will improve your fitness in many types of ways
  • It’s something to talk about with my husband and gives me a special bond with him
  • Post-long-run meals are something to look forward to!  I look forward to going out to dinner after a long run more than any other meal of the week
  • Races are exciting and reinvigorate me for the rest of life
  • It develops endurance for tough situations (for about half of the year in New York, running outside is not very pleasant!  It’s either freezing, windy, raining, snowing, dark, humid, swelteringly hot, buggy, or any combination of these)
  • Running outside can be very beautiful and you can do it anywhere
  • It gives me some time alone with my thoughts
  • It is a constant in my life and provides some sense of stability even when everything in changing.  Throughout the 17 times I have moved since leaving my house after high school, running has always been there and is a familiar thing that I can cling to that preserves my sense of self.

And the list could go on.  Needless to say, running has been very important to me and even part of my identity.

I planned to run through my pregnancies.  Why wouldn’t I?  It’s the main way that I exercise and I’ve been doing it for so long that it wouldn’t be a shock to my body.  With all of the changes that pregnancy creates in the body, running would at least help me to maintain some sort of fitness and keep my figure in check enough that I wouldn’t have tons of weight to lose after giving birth.  Maybe I wouldn’t be running races, but not running for over 9 months (while my body expanded, no less!) was something I couldn’t even wrap my mind around.

The first time I was pregnant, I kept running.  I stopped for about a week or two at first, but then I started to think of all the fitness I would lose and started to run during the week, along with very long walks and long bike rides on the weekends to take the place of my usual long runs.  This time around, I decided before I got pregnant that I would run just 3 times a week to maintain my fitness, as well as walking and some prenatal strength workouts.  So after finding out that I was pregnant, I headed to a local gym with a free pass that I had and ran 5.5 slow miles on the treadmill.  I wouldn’t run 8-10 miles anymore on the weekends, but I would certainly run!

But that night, my heart stopped when I went to the bathroom and saw the faintest hint of spotting.  It continued for several hours, very lightly, and I cried myself to sleep, sure that this was the beginning of the end, once again.

Thankfully, it stopped the next day.  I placed myself on a voluntary bedrest that day, so terrified from what had happened.  It was a bit extreme, perhaps.  But I decided then and there that it was not worth it to put myself at risk to lose my baby (at the time I didn’t know that it was babies) just because I wanted to keep running.  Most likely it was not the cause of losing the first one, but I will never know.  Several people told me to stop running and seemed uneasy that I still was at the time.  Seeing that spotting made me realize that my vanity and desire for things to stay the same was overshadowing my concern for the health of my babies, and could possibly put them at risk.  And I thought back on the agony of waiting to get pregnant the previous months, and thought about the possibility of having to go through all of that again just because I could not stop running.

So I’m not running for now.  At first I thought I would just wait for the first trimester to be over, but now I have decided that I will not be running at all this pregnancy.  There are many women who run all throughout their pregnancies and have perfectly healthy babies, of course.  But there is nothing that says you have to run throughout this particular, delicate stage of life to be considered a runner.  I am still a runner.  I will run again.  And I’m sure it will be slow, and I will feel like I am kind of starting from scratch, and I may not run another half marathon any time soon.  It may be a very long time before I get to attempt any challenging running goals again.

It’s strange to not run for so long.  I miss sore legs, breaking a sweat when I work out, and my Saturday long run routine.  I miss feeling like a “runner.”  I miss being able to look for races and get excited about the next one.

But is it worth it?  Absolutely.  Ever since that one scary episode, this pregnancy has been quite uneventful, and I can look forward to one day having these babies in my arms.  My life will never be the same, running or not.  I will have two little kids to raise!  My body will never be the same, not even if I ran every single day throughout my pregnancy.  I am getting older and my body is being stretched to the limit.  Motherhood will change me physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually.

I am still a runner.  But I do not have to cling to it so tightly.  I can let it go for now.  I expect to come back to it.  But there are things in life more important than running.

Sometimes all you can do is wait

Pregnancy is such an exciting time!  And it’s short.  Really, in the grand scheme of things, not very long at all.  And there is so much to do, so much to get ready!  Preparing the nursery, learning about maternity and child care leave, hunting for deals on all the baby essentials, learning how to take care of newborns, how to nurse, how to make baby food, figuring out what is cheaper to make vs. buy, touring the hospital, signing up for birthing classes, finding out the genders of the twins, thinking of names for them, throwing a baby shower, figuring out ways to earn money as I plan to stay home with the twins for the first few years, finishing up any house projects that we can before the babies arrive and take over our lives….getting the outlets fixed in the garage so we can get a deep freezer and I can make a lot of meals ahead of time that we can eat during those challenging first few months…goodness gracious, there is a lot to do.

Yet somehow, I find myself feeling a little bored right now.  Because even though there is so much going on and so much to get ready, there is not really anything I can do at the moment besides live my daily life.  I like projects.  I like to be able to throw myself into something entirely.  Or perhaps it’s just inertia–when I am used to simply living daily life, my daily life takes up all my time and energy and I can’t imagine taking on anything else!  But then when something big comes up (for example…finding out you’re pregnant with twins!) I suddenly get a rush of energy and find time in my day that I didn’t know was there, and I get used to moving a hundred miles an hour.  When things get settled and I no longer have to multitask and there is not much more to learn or do, I feel a bit lost.

I have done as much as I can for right now, and for now, all there is to do is wait.  Wait for the electrician to come next week so I can order a deep freezer and start planning meals.  Then wait for the third trimester to start making meals so they aren’t sitting in the freezer forever.  Wait for my next ultrasound so I can have reassurance that everything is still going well, and hopefully find out the genders so I can start thinking of names and getting gender-appropriate clothes.  Wait for warmer weather so I can start scouting out the local yard sales for deals on baby gear.  Wait for the baby shower so I know what others will give to us, and know what I have left to get.  Wait to finish my current job before I can truly begin anything new.  Wait until after giving birth and recovering and figuring out life with twins before trying to take on something like a new job of any sort!  Wait until my husband and I both have time and energy to work on any house projects.  Wait to give birth before I can even try to get my old body back.  Wait until the next paycheck to buy any more baby items, and even then I should wait until later in the pregnancy just to make sure that all is going well.  And then wait until it’s finally time to give birth and find out if any of my preparation was useful at all or if I have to start from scratch.

Some of these things will happen in the next week or so, others I’ll have to wait several months.  Waiting is hard!  And for some reason, God likes to make us wait.  He does a lot of work while we’re waiting.  Waiting develops perseverance, patience and trust.  Trust that everything will happen at the right time, that God’s plan is good, that I do not have to control everything with my obsessive (and often futile) planning.  In this particular waiting period, I know that each day my babies are growing and developing into little unique humans and every day is an absolute miracle even though it all feels the same to me.  It’s hard to see the blessing of the mundane days of waiting in the moment, but later I look back and realize that waiting has forced me to grow in ways that I never could have if everything happened right away as I would like.