Demand More. Hustle Harder.

If you can’t pay your bills, HUSTLE HARDER.

If you are complaining about how you can’t work because daycare is too expensive, GET A SIDE GIG.  Find someone to co-op childcare so you can get a job.

living and a lifeI have huge plans for my family, so I needed to step our our game.  I decided to go with a company that has science backing it.

I decided to go with the thousands or people who have voted Rodan and Fields as the #1 skincare product in America.  That means it surpasses all the stuff you can buy in department stores, spas, and online.  That means that those skin care counters at the mall are falling behind.  So yeah, I feel pretty good about it.

rodan brick success meme.jpg

I’m excited to be building an empire.  We all have people that tell us we can’t.  We have people who throw bricks of hate at us.  Typically, it’s because they’re miserable in their own lives and project, but it still hurts.  So take all those bricks, build a foundation and grow an empire.

IT doesn’t matter how you do it, but I demand that YOU demand more for yourself.

 

If you think you need to know more about what I’m doing and how my empire is growing, join in.

I’ll bring you with me.

 

Rules and Recs for Local Family Dining

I live in a food town.  I’m NOT a foodie.  In case you haven’t been paying attention, it’s embarassing to call yourself a foodie.  Everyone in the industry IS making fun of you.

I digress

toddler-1326097_1920.jpgWhen you have 1-5 kids, you want to go somewhere that can accommodate your group, has some freedom of movement, has some food that is appropriate for kids, and is on the quicker side-no 5 course meals and Prix Fix.  Honestly, you also don’t want the staff to look at you like you’re some sort of out of control bunny rabbit who couldn’t control their reproduction JUST for walking through the door.  Yes, I have kids.  We’re hungry.  We intend to pay you AND tip accordingly.  Don’t be an asshole.

I have been treated well, and horribly as I stroll in with my 4 year old and my twin infants.  So, I’m going to share those experiences with you.

But first, a couple tips on how to NOT be an asshole parent:

1.) Timing

Don’t go to dinner when you are at threat level: Midnight.  Don’t go at 8pm when bedtime is 7.  Don’t skip breakfast and go to lunch at 11 hoping it will be fine.  Think about your meal times.  Restaurant staff should be kind, but it’s not their job to manage your schedule.  Don’t rush them because YOU didn’t plan ahead.

2.) Feed your kid

See rule #1.  don’t wait until your kid has been at a festival and had cotton candy, fried dough and a fucking bloomin’ onion and THEN run to a restaurant, order a burger and get mad that it’s not immediately available for your little gremlin.  PACK SNACKS, folks.  This is parenting lesson number one.  When you were pregnant, you packed snacks.  Just because your kid is on the outside, doesn’t make it ok to abandon the granola bars, apples and trail mix at home.

3.) Bring your own activities

It is NOT the job of ANY restaurant to provide you with coloring, games, puzzles, and a waiting area.  See rule #2.  You are the parent, bring your own activities.  If you can’t handle that, go to Amazon and buy a kindle.

4.)  Don’t be THAT parent

Just because you’re walking behind your child doesn’t mean they are safe.  It doens’t mean they are being cute, and it doesn’t mean they aren’t driving other guests bonkers.  Find an area that is safe and appropriate for walking/running (hint: not near service area) and stay there until your food comes.  If you need help with this, ask a server.  They will be ECSTATIC that you arne’t letting your kid run near the kitchen door and walking behind them, giggling.

Ok, so if you follow those rules, you are the ultimate parental guest.  Restaurant folk are HAPPY to wait on you, you are amazing.

Here’s a list of places in the area that I take my kids:

1.)  ‘Wich Please (food truck)

This is a food truck placed next to buoy park in Rockland.  The food is approachable, fairly priced and my kid can run while she waits.  I can walk, sit in the sun or shade, or I can keep all the kids in the AC of the car while we wait (don’t jump on me, they’re never unattended…goodness)  He also runs a pretty sweet blog.

2.)  The Landings

So, because my parents literally own this business, feel free to go there with your kids. Follow the above rules, and blame me for letting your entire squad of kids run around on the adjacent deck.  Be respectful of other diners, and follow the above rules (did I say that already?).  The kids menu is great, they give your kids books, and I’ll see you there.

3.)  Brass Compass and Archers

Lynn is the baby whisperer.  If your baby cries, go knock on the door to the kitchen.  She will hold your baby and you can eat.  to hell with everyone else,.   I’m kidding, but she’s really amazing.  She makes everyone feel like family and her staff has never, once, has made me feel like I was taking up space, too loud, or inconvenient for them. Brass Compass is Breakfast and Lunch.  Archers is lunch and dinner.

4.)  Rock City Coffee

Recommended These guys are amazing.  They are super kind to my daughter and support me with holding the door, answering my silly food questions, and letting me take up a lot of space with my double stroller.  I totally appreciate them and, as long as you follow the above rules, recommend them to any parent.

5.)  Cafe Miranda

This is a great family spot if your adult to kid ratio is about 1:2.  It’s a small spot and there isn’t a lot of room for kid movement.  The menu, however, is amazing.  Everyone can find something.  They have a great kids menu and there’s a ton of stuff to look at.  After dinner you can walk Main Street and check out Lulu’s Ice Cream next door.

6.) Park Street Grille

Noisy, Chicken fingers, tacos, lemonade and two turtles named Clyde and Duke.  This is a totally amazing spot for kids and families.  And, honestly, anytime I can have a margarita while my kids eat tacos, I’m happy.

Rockland has a ton of places that are family friendly.  These are NOT in order.  If you have questions, it NEVER hurts to call and say “I have a plethora of children, do you have enough booster seats to accommodate us?”  their reaction will usually  give you an idea.

Do you think your restaurant should be added to the list?  Contact me!

I’ll apologize or I’ll tell you why you’re wrong…either way!

The Unicorn Frappucchino

For decades, the food industry has been churning out this stuff that looks like and tastes like sustenance. When I was a kid there were barrels of sugar water that had drops of Red #40 and Blue #5; ice pops that were shaped like rockets and made our tongue turn shades of purple. We ate Twizzlers and drank Hawaiian Punch.

We got detention, suspension, sent to the office. Not one person cared that kids started their day with a Pop Tart and a Strawberry Nesquick.

Fruit Loops and Sunny D were “part of a complete breakfast”.

berries-2558_1920.jpg

So, I ask you, what the hell is wrong with this Unicorn disaster that came out this past week?

It’s just the front man, the Flava Flav to the past 30 years of convenience/fast food in the US.

No need to hate the unicorn frappucchino.

But go ahead, that’s fine–hate the “pink drink”

(sorry Plexus Ambassadors)

BUT if you are going to be a snob about this milkshake, skip the Shamrock Shake (and I’m sure you turn your nose up at green beer too right?), The Coolata, The Cookies n’ Cream Milkshake and any larger-than-a-kid-size Blizzard.

Now that I’m being sued by every corporation that has a high calorie frozen beverage, I think the point is clear. These things exist, and they’re delicious. As a dietitian, I think they’re gross. I make healthy choices.  I have been educating myself for most of my adult life, in order to be healthier, eat better and take care of myself.  Now, I continue those efforts for my family. I eat and drink conscientiously. I focus on nourishment.

caramel-1952997_1920.jpg

Occasionally, I choose a brownie. I indulge. I can’t tell you that I sit here drinking Kombucha, eating quinoa and tofu every night while trying to decide between squat challenges and yoga poses. We make good choices 6.5 days a week.  We choose organic meats, eggs, dairy.  We choose lots of vegetables.  We drink mostly water.  We love to try new foods and encourage our child to be brave and taste whatever is on her plate.  We have balance.  We do this so that on Sunday morning, when my daughter asks for Apple Pie Ala Mode for breakfast, I say “why not?”

Moderation, folks!

…and something stones and glass houses…

Want to learn more about eating healthy?

Follow my blog for upcoming raves and rants, recipes and how-tos!

Breastfeeding, Donor Milk and Me

22-IMG_0244Since having twins last year, I have been committed to breastfeeding them.  I NEVER judge others for their choice, or their decision to formula feed.  It is, however, my personal choice, and I’m wicked stubborn.

Since June, I cannot tell you how many times I have been pushed to try formula.  I have been criticized for my choice and encouraged by many family, friends and providers to switch.  I have been called selfish, I have been criticized and I have left conversations doubting my ability to provide adequate calories.

Add that to clogged ducts, lip ties, tongue ties and overall terrible latches, and it’s been pretty shitty.  I love nursing and I love that the boys have had only breastmilk and nutritious foods, but the actual process has been hard.

And then I accepted my first bags of donor milk.

I had bronchitis and I was in the ER.  My cousin over-nighted it (yes, that’s a thing).  17 ounces.  It got me through a day of dehydration, fever, and overall feeling lousy.  She has twins too, so she didn’t hesitate.  She just called FedEx.

Then

A high school friend walked up to me at a community event and offered it. I wanted to say no, because I don’t need anyone’s help.  *lie*

But I said yes.  Tears flooded my eyes and I couldn’t make any more words.  This amazing human being delivered it to my house in 3-4 oz bags and helped me get through a huge growth spurt.  I don’t know how I would have survived that week without that milk.

Then

Dunkin Donuts and Lansinoh
Drinks all around!

My best friend had her baby.  She would drop off bags every once in a while, sometimes with a coffee….(I have amazing friends)  Her baby was 6 weeks old when this started.

Now, if I need a few ounces she comes over and pumps to put it in the fridge.  That is love.  That is support.

Then

A random person on Facebook reached out to me.  She had found me through Human Milk 4 Human Babies and she wanted to help.  I picked up a huge bag of pumped, creamy, fatty, amazing milk for the boys.  I cried as I accepted it.  I cried because this amazing gift nourishes my boys, and therefore nourishes me.

I know that not everyone can donate, and not everyone feels comfortable sharing milk, or accepting shared milk.  For me, it’s like holding my hand.  This is fucking hardMotherhood is hardNursing is hard.  So to you, women in my life who have given me this gift…

Thank you — Because I don’t think you really knew…

You didn’t know that I have often felt like I’m *not enough*; that there is not enough of me to go around.  Between two babies, my beautiful daughter and my amazing husband, I’m spread thin.

You didn’t know that I have been accused of being *not enough* by others, judged for not using formula, for not feeding cereal (it constipates them) or for not choosing the same route that others have chosen for their children.

You didn’t know that the day they were born, a nurse told me that I shouldn’t be upset if they need formula, and I wasn’t even off the surgical table.

You didn’t know that there are people who have broadly challenged my parenting choices, and brought me to question myself.

You didn’t know that I celebrate when my sons maintain their weight curve above the 5th percentile

You didn’t know that I have cried over this, A LOT.  I have sat with my crying babies, rocking them, nursing them, drinking quarts of water at a time, feeling like I’m failing.

You didn’t know that I sighed a huge relief when I opened my freezer and had those medela, lansinoh, nuk bags waiting for us.

You didn’t know; now you do.

Thank you

Scary Mommy

Visiting a New Family

You have watched as a pregnant person in your life has grown a baby in their belly.  You saw the positive pregnancy test.  You brought crackers as they coped with morning sickness.  You celebrated at the gender reveal party.  You were there for all of it.  You felt it all as much as anyone could feel it.

But now, the baby is here.  This baby is perfectly made.  Such beauty.  You could stare at this little being all day long.  You feel like it’s a part of you too.  You love this new parent so much; so you love baby.

tim-bish-171738After you’re done admiring this beautiful new creature, I want to give you some pointers on how to TRULY help this new parent.

What do they need?

1.)  Food and Water
This person needs sustenance.  If they is a first time parent, they may be caring for another individual for the first time in their life.  finding balance between caring for yourself AND another person is a struggle.  Bring them a glass of ice water, granola bar, a sandwich, a lasagna.  Freeze portions of your own cooking and tell her to heat it up for themselves.  Offer them coffee.  If it’s approved by the parent and provider, offer a dark beer or small glass of red wine.

2.)  A Moment
New parents sometimes can’t even set the baby down to go to the bathroom.  Using the bathroom after having a baby is best done without a baby in your arms.  Offer to hold the baby; hold a crying baby for a bathroom break, teething brushing, freshening up…  Take care of the baby while they takes care of themselves.  Give them a moment.

3.)  Laundry
New parents are juggling.  Give them a load of fresh leggings, flannels, socks and underwear.  Ask them if they needs a new shirt and bring it to them to change.  See if they needs a nursing bra washed, burp cloths?  Do a load of laundry.  It doesn’t have to be perfect!

(unless you’re a postpartum doula!)

4.)  Tidying
They only have 3 seconds to themselves at a time and probably spend that time asking  “what should I do now” before the baby needed something from her.  Do a few dishes, throw a couple things away, lessen any chaos that may be present.

5.)  An Ear
Postpartum depression is VERY real.  For the purpose of this blog, let’s just pretend it affects all birthing parents after birth.  In some way, they will feel sadness, maybe a little hopeless.  This wonderful person may even feel like they are not enough.  Listen and validate feelings.  Hold space, or give a hug if needed.  Bring a tissue and voice how you’re proud of the sacrifices made by new parents.  If you suspect that your friend needs to get some help, from a doctor or someone to talk to, don’t be afraid to suggest it.  PPD can be treated and should be acknowledged by our friends, and our medical professionals.  Don’t do nothing.

6.)  Focus
Everyone will come over to hold the baby, has anyone asked how her body feels?  “How is your vagina?”  “How is your incision?”  “How are your breasts feeling”  “How are you feeling about your birth?”  “Have you taken your vitamins?” “Have you taken your placenta capsules?”  Give your attention and your eye contact.  It will be appreciated.

7.)  Short Visits
Know when it’s time to leave.  If you are a close friend, new parents may feel comfortable falling asleep in front of you, but typically not.  Explain you’ll be back and ask if there is anything you can bring.  Keep your visits to 30 minutes or even less.  Allow time to bond with the baby.  Now that you have filled bellies and hearts, and left their home better than you found it, it’s time to go home.

Proposed Postpartum Visit Schedule
5 minutes of admiring new baby
5 minutes of preparing something to eat and drink
5 minutes of a chore, something to better the space
5+ minutes of alone time (bathroom, changing etc.  maybe even a shower)
5-10 minutes of conversation.  Check on new parents.
Leave

Dear Rosemary’s Mom

Dear New Mom,

Congratulations.  You are an amazing human being.  You have given the past 10 months of your body, your intention and your spirit to grow this little being.  And you just met her.
pregnant-453200_1920
You may have changed everything.  You stopped drinking coffee, you ate better, you stopped going out, you saved your pennies so you could have the birth you wanted, the crib you wanted, the perfect baby carrier.  You made changes, whether small or big, to give your baby the start she deserves.  You are the best.

We may have never met, but you are so loved.  You are now in a community of women (and men) who appreciate what it takes to get here.  Far from a finish line, this is the beginning of motherhood, the most fabulous journey.

The next few weeks/months can be hard.  Breastfeeding can be rough, the nights can be long.  The next few weeks can be messy, and you can feel a million combinations of emotions.  But the stress that you are enduring is all because you want to do it right.  You want to be the best.  You want the best for your baby.  Let me tell you, you’re already there.  Your intentions, your love, your touch…she feels it all and she’s soaking it in.

Reach out to me, to your friends, your cousins, your sisters, other parents.  Tell us when it’s hard, and when you need help.  This is not easy for everyone, and the ones who make it look easy are typically louder than the rest of us.  These next few weeks can challenge you.

super-951190_1920This is a beautiful time; it has a romantic chaos about it.  You will look back on it so fondly, yet it may seem so anxious.  Embrace your comfort person, perhaps your partner, who loves you so much and looks at you as the strongest, most impressive person in the world.

To every new mother, you are amazing.  Take it easy on your self.  Take a breath, hold your baby, enjoy your new family.  Take pride in the changes you have made to create this little beauty.

You are the strongest woman.

Dear Rosemary’s Mom, and every new mother, nice job.  Congratulations, now go rest.

XO

Love, Molly

Bitchy Victimized Snowflakes and Friends

A week ago, we marched. 

Women's March 2017
What we teach our children resonates forever

I say “we” because I marched with my beautiful family and friends.  I marched with hundreds of thousands (dare I say, millions) of men and women who felt unheard.
It was liberating, seriously.
It was *take your bra off and throw your pants on the floor*-liberating.
Liberating like walking out of high school after your last final.
Liberating like your two weeks notice being over.
Liberating; for me.

So, from my perspective, how could that be bad?

IMG_4314

I’ve learned a lot and I’ve gathered that some folks didn’t feel welcome.  This was astonishing to me.  I kept asking and gathering information. How is this a thing?  How was this not for everyone?  But the truth is, it wasn’t, they were still unheard.  Let’s unpack that.

What is it to be unheard?  When my daughter isn’t listening, and I mean REALLY not listening, I shout.  I shout and then she looks at me.  When she looks at me I bring my voice down quiet.  I speak kindly and show her that when she listens, there is nothing to be afraid of.  When I am heard, I do not speak loudly.  When I feel heard, I feel respected and my mind is peaceful.  When she is unheard, similar things happen.  She shouts and cries and acts frantic, sound familiar?

How many of us feel unheard?

The answer is embarrassing.  It’s too many.  The truth is, if you are reading this and interested in what is happening in our political culture currently, you probably feel emotional, frantic, scared.  You may, perhaps, feel like you’re screaming and no one is listening.  It sucks.

 

16179093_616951935158497_5909126224901610178_o

SO MANY men and women proclaimed that the march did NOT embody them.  I’m truly interested in this.  From my perspective, the march was for everyone.  I beam with excitement when I see a picture of a friend with her anti-abortion signage.  I had other friends with signs that had puns, proclamations of feminism, statements that embodied their fears, their feelings, their true thoughts.  I was stoked to see #lovetrumpshate plastered with pink knitted hats and breastfeeding mothers.  I loved the creativity.  I loved the ownership and pride.  I loved Ashley Judd. I am proud that my daughter held a sign promoting love and equality.  This is a value that we instill in her.  We love ALL people. 

16179204_10154315286016169_2686557869920291737_o

So, why?  Why did so many of my friends feel the need to say “These women (and men) did not march for me”

Because some us
were out of line.

Some of the people at the march were assholes, apparently.
This infuriates me

How dare you, in your pink pussy hat with your #fucktrump sign, make my conservative friends feel that THEIR voice wasn’t welcome at the march.  Who was it?  Who was it that told women and men that their opinions didn’t matter.  Every voice, every man, every woman, every kid deserved to march that day and I’m embarrassed that some of my friends with different views did not feel welcome.  If I had heard it, I would have said something.  I did not.

This goes two ways. If you didn’t want to come, that’s fine.

DO NOT belittle me for choosing to be heard that day.

Don’t make fun of the pink hat and tell me I’m victimizing myself, because that makes you the asshole.  When our president uses the word “pussy” it sets a precident.  Some decided that the anger, the fire that was sparked from that word, needed a place.  If that place is a pink hat and a protest sign, so be it. That seems pretty peaceful.

16112636_10103633250912899_1214807414374622990_o

Here’s where I draw the line:  In a world where the right of a woman to wear pants is young, a women’s march should NOT embarrass you.  If it embarrasses you that I marched, you should google “how to unfriend on facebook” because I’m about to get even more embarrassing.

I will not tolerate ignorance that racism exists, or that gay people are somehow broken and need fixing.  We need to continue to promote rights, inclusivity, and equality.  If you are fighting to ban, segregate, diminish and divide, we just can’t have a conversation because these are seeded in hatred, not in a difference of opinion.

When it comes to difference of opinion, I promise to listen.  If you voted for our president and you believe he will do good, I hear you.  I see you.  I believe in you and I am stoked that you voted your heart.  I ask you to hear me as well.  I work to be an ally to all people.  I urge you; reach out to someone who disagrees with you.  Get to know someone with a different opinion.  Keep your calm, invite them into your space.  LISTEN to what they have to say.  This is imperative.  If I’m not listening, get loud.  If the government isn’t listening, let’s get loud together.

Calling me a bitchy victimized snowflake does not make me want to sit down with you and listen to your fears and hopes. Me telling you that your voting preference bars you from marching isn’t effective either, and it makes me an asshole.

Bottom line:  I’ll stand next to you and defend your rights if you’ll stand next to me in defense of mine.

#THISISWHATDEMOCRACYLOOKSLIKE

16178598_10154316285061169_6704499916065654087_o

Postpartum Anxiety

Let me tell you a little something about anxiety, for those who may not understand.  We all have it.  It’s the feeling before a job interview, on a first date, or while you’re running your feverish child into the emergency room.  Anxiety is natural and I believe it happens to everyone.PostPArtum Anxiety

The difference is that some people suffer from anxiety when it’s not necessary.  Some stress over what others would consider to be no big deal.

This can especially happen after the birth of a baby.  This is twofold.  On one hand, you have a new baby and all the world is so dangerous.  You may have sped across town, blaring music with your hair flying out the window.  Now, you’re looking 3-4 times before you cross a railroad crossing.  Now, you’re turning down your music for delicate eardrums.  You’re checking their skin for redness, finding cradle cap, altered hair patterns, birth marks, your senses detect every peep, every fart, every turn.

You don’t sleep as much because you are ready to pounce out of bed at the first sign of anything….anything at all.

But then, there’s the anxiety that isn’t as grounded.  The creeping suspicion that your child is sick, with no symptoms.  You need to watch them while they sleep, just in case.  You, perhaps, don’t let other people take them, watch them, feed them, change a diaper.  You may not do any of these things, but you’re just stressed. ALL. THE. TIME.

This may be you, it may be your partner.  It’s real.  This is not something to “get over”.  This is nothing to write off as paranoia.  This is different.

Pay attention.

Here are 5 things you can do, to help a person who is suffering from anxiety, or an anxiety attack

     1.  Validate This is, by far, the most important thing that a person with anxiety can hear.It’s not up to you to fix the problem, but to validate their feelings.“I understand, this is a really hard thing you’re dealing with”.“Your baby is obviously sending you signals and it’s amazing that you’re working so hard to pick them up”. “Being a new mom is really hard, you’re doing a great job keeping everything together

     2.  Reassure This looks like number 1, but it’s not as focused on the actual topic of panic.This is a general reassurance that everything is safe.
“It’s ok to feel this way”
“We have all had feelings like this”
“you are more normal than you think”
“You are safe with me”
“You can let this out”
“Let’s talk more about that, I want to hear it

     3.  Physically Comfort Offer a hug, hand holding, or just a glass of water.  This may be not touching, but getting your loved one to a comfy chair, or turning the lights down.  Provide safe space for this person.  If holding the baby or getting help to remove the baby to another safe space is necessary, provide that.  This is a doula-esque role.  Allow this person to do what they need to do, and not have to think about anything outside of themselves.

     4.  Support the Turn Around When it’s time to stop, when the reality of “life is ok” comes back, allow that person to come back without drawing attention to the drastic nature of their panic.“Wow, you really were freaking out” is not something that will help to build back the foundation of this person, your partner, your friend.Instead, just be silent until you really get a feel for what this person needs.  Attune to them.
Are they laughing?
Are they embarrassed?
What can you say to help them rebound in a gradual way?

     5.  Know When it’s Time to Call for Backup I am not a doctor or a psychologist.  There are incidences of postpartum depression and anxiety that require medical attention.Know when it’s too much for you.  Call a mother, a spouse, a sibling.  If necessary, call for medical help.  This person’s anger or backlash will be nothing compared to your conscience if something were to happen.

Anxiety can be debilitating.It can keep new mothers in their homes, crying by themselves during naptime.It can keep new parents from being functional, or taking a break.It is difficult.

The lesson here is that you MUST meet the anxious person where THEY are, not where you think they should be.

Keep that in mind, and you’ve just become an ally.

http://www.postpartum.net/get-help/in-an-emergency/
http://mainedoulas.com –postpartum doulas

The Story of Larson and Emmett

From Molly:

Trigger Warning: Infant Loss/Miscarriage/TTTS

October was Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month.  Last year, I spent days mulling over my story.  It is healing and heartbreaking to try to put your pain into words, Yet, in doing it, we all hope that others may feel a sense of support.  I am constantly amazed by the strength of this woman.  Virginia Dow is a close friend of mine who recently met her sleeping twin boys.  Her courage inspires me.  As she tells her story I hear her voice and know her struggle is so recent, real and raw.  I hope that Virginia and Shane’s story continues to raise awareness for Pregnancy loss as well as twin to twin transfusion syndrome. 

This is the story of Larson and Emmett:

Molly has the joy of helping women through pregnancies, labor, and postpartum adventures and I have the joy of knowing Molly through my husband. Our husband’s are best friends so our lives will forever be entangled whether we like it or not. (We do like it, by the way.) She has asked me to share my story about my second pregnancy and I am happy to do so to spread awareness for Pregnancy and Infant Loss and Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome.

July 18, 2016.

This was the day of my first ultrasound appointment for my second pregnancy. I was a little over 10 weeks along and had waited to see the OB to get a better appointment time around my firstborn’s naptime. My previous pregnancy was a breeze, all things considered. No complications, spontaneous labor, and a vaginal delivery, so I wasn’t too concerned about waiting to be seen.

Shane and Virginia1

That morning I had felt like I “popped” out, so to speak;  that pregnancy phase of looking fat because you don’t look skinny, but you still don’t look pregnant either. Around 6 weeks, anything tight around my stomach made me nauseous. If I didn’t eat frequently enough I was nauseous too and definitely had some strong food aversions. All things, I had thought, were pretty normal for a second go-around. Then I had my ultrasound.

My husband is an Air Force pilot and his job requirements rarely allow him to accompany me to things, including this appointment, but I was able to Facetime him in. It was nice to not have to relay everything the doctor said.

The tech started scanning and said something to the fact that the baby looks good and then went quiet for a second. She looked at me and said, “Do you see what I see?”

I thought, “Well, I see a lot of things, but I’m not a pro at reading a scan like you are so I mainly see a bunch of black and white.”

I said, “No?”

Shane and Virginia2

“There’s TWO in there!”

“What? Are you serious?!” That’s all I could say. We both started laughing and I cried tears of joy. Excitement.

Ok, maybe terror; but definitely joy too.

Twins didn’t run in either side of our family, so we were pretty shocked.

The rest of the appointment went by in a blur: phone calls to family members and a Facebook post about how we needed to adjust our pregnancy announcement from one baby addition, to two.

We were so happy. We started making arrangements in our house for two cribs, upgraded our small SUV to a minivan, bought a second infant car seat with a double stroller.  You know, typical things you need to prepare for, especially if your husband is potentially deploying. You get what you can get done-in advance.

I had to see an OB and a Maternal Fetal Medicine (MFM) specialist because all “multiples” pregnancies are considered high risk. This seemed like no big deal. Extra ultrasounds, right? All good things, until we had talks of Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS.)

Shane and Virginia3

TTTS is a disease that can affect 15-20% of all identical twin pregnancies and my twin boys, Larson and Emmett, were starting to show signs. The twins were sharing a placenta, but had two amniotic sacs. This makes it easier to diagnose TTTS than if they were sharing the same amniotic sac. The biggest signs of TTTS are fluid discrepancy, growth discrepancy, bladder size and visibility, and heart distress. TTTS is caused by blood vessels being connected on the placenta-causing one twin to donate to the other with little to no nutrients being returned. Emmett (our donor) was sharing too much with Larson (our recipient) and Larson wasn’t giving anything back.

Stage 1 is where the fluid and weight may be different, but not by much, and Stage 5 is where one or both babies are lost due to heart failure. Most identical twin pregnancies that develop Stage 1 don’t progress past it. We stayed at Stage 1 for a couple weeks, but at 17.5 weeks we were showing signs of Stage 2, further growth and fluid discrepancies. Our MFM doc referred us to the Fetal Center in Houston to find out if we were candidates for fetoscopic laser ablation surgery. This surgery would sever the blood vessels connecting the babies and  allow the babies to continue growing separately. This would stop the donation of nutrients from Emmett to Larson.

Our consultation showed us at Atypical Stage 2. Fluid levels and growth were a bit worrisome, but their bladders and hearts looked fine. They wanted to see us back in a week. You see, the doctors try to delay the surgery as long as possible because there are several risks involved, especially if it’s early in the pregnancy. Putting it off one week or longer was hopefully buying us days/weeks more gestation time.

I was told to keep my MFM appointment the following week and my scan showed more severe discrepancies between the boys, but again, bladders and hearts appeared normal. I was told to expect surgery following my consultation in two days. This whole time, we had been sharing our complications with close friends and family. These people, their families and church families were praying for us. I was going into this trial knowing we were being lifted up in prayer and knowing God was on our side. What could happen?

September 14, 2016

51 hours later, we made our 4+ hour trek back to Houston and had an ultrasound. We had a different ultrasound tech this time. She wasn’t quite as personable as our previous one, but that was ok, until she was quiet. And the monitor was quiet. And I was asked to hold my breath. And we weren’t seeing Larson dancing in his excessive fluid like usual. She left the room without saying anything. I told my husband-something was wrong. I had too many ultrasounds at this point to not know. The tech brought a doctor back. He asked to take a look, of course I said yes. And then he said the most horrible words I’ve ever heard in my life.

“I’m so sorry to tell you this, but your babies are gone.”

He said some other things, but I don’t remember much other than him leaving the room to give us a few minutes. He eventually came back to scan my once beautiful belly, holding two wonderful little boys, to say that some time in those 51 hours, we had gone from Atypical Stage 2 to Stage 5:  Acute TTTS. I would have to be induced and birth my babies.  Even though they were gone, my body had no idea. I wasn’t bleeding or cramping like a typical miscarriage. We left the Fetal Center very differently than when we entered.

The day after we drove back, I was seen at the OB and scheduled to be induced 5 days from when we found out we lost them. 5 days I was pregnant with babies that had no heart beat.

I couldn’t stand the sight of my body.
It was betraying me.
I looked pregnant and full of life, but I wasn’t.
I could feel movement inside me,
but it was my own body moving their small ones around.
I had this huge round belly serving as a living tomb.
I felt so empty while I looked so full. I refused to shower.
I didn’t look in mirrors.
I didn’t want to see the lie my body was telling me.

Shane and Virginia4

My heart and soul screamed out to God. WHY?! WHY us?!

I had read all the success stories of couples that had struggled with TTTS, the surgery, hospital stay, and NICU time, but still, their babies SURVIVED. What had we done to deserve such a punishment of losing, not one, but two children? But then I remembered, we are all a part of a fallen world, broken, and sin filled. God didn’t cause this. He loves Larson and Emmett more than I can even imagine and even though He knew it would happen, He provided for us. He provided that my husband was with me when we received the news. He provided an understanding and caring medical team during the whole pregnancy and birth. He provided a work environment for my mom so she and my father could fly down to be with us. He provided two identical spider lilies to grow together outside of our older son’s room as a sign of Him looking over us. He provides us with an Air Force family that has shown an abundance of care for us during this time. He provided a close friend for me who knows both my joy of twins and my heartache from pregnancy loss. In all this grief and pain, He provided and still provides and understands what I’m going through.

And now I’m learning. I’m learning more about God and my faith. I’m learning about how many women like myself have had to suffer losing one or more children. I’m learning how to be extremely forgiving of unknowingly insensitive comments and remarks. I’m learning how to move forward, but that I will never really move on. The pain will eventually fade, but it will never be gone.

Losing a child, or children in my case, is something I do not wish for anyone. If you’re reading this and have never felt that pain, I truly pray you never have to. It’s a special kind of sorrow.  You don’t lose a baby (or babies) once, but over and over again. Every moment, milestone, birthday celebration, and Christmas.

I was able to hold Larson and Emmett. To see their sweet faces and know they would have looked a lot like their older brother. To feel them move and dance within my body and have an idea of how their personalities might have been. I had 18.5 wonderful weeks with those two boys, and that’s more than others have gotten.

I ask you going forward to think before you speak.

Don’t minimize anyone’s pregnancy or infant loss. EVER. (If you need examples, I’m sure Molly and I both have too many to count.) Don’t ask questions or make statements about a woman reproducing. That is really nobody’s business but hers and her partners.

You could be asking someone like me.
Someone who has tried and lost.
Lost early,
lost halfway through,
lost when their adventure of motherhood was changing from pregnancy to child-rearing.

Or what if you ask someone who has been trying for years and has yet to produce a life? Imagine the pain you put every one of us through asking these questions or making these statements.

You are reminding us of the things we so desperately want to be different.

Think about pictures showing a family of 3 that in reality is a family of 5.

Shane and Virginia 5

I hope that sharing my story has opened your eyes, and your heart, to what pregnancy and infant loss looks like. October was infant and pregnancy loss awareness month.  Loss may be brought to public attention one day or month a year, but it’s now a part of me every second of every day. I’m living a life I never thought I would be, but I’m living-and I want to live for my sons. All three of them.

Will we have more children? That’s our decision.  If we do, they won’t be taking the place of the ones we lost. Whatever happens in our future, I have the reassurance that God will provide, just like He’s providing a place for all the babies gone too soon.

I can’t wait to see you again, Larson and Emmett.

Shane and Virginia6

Virginia Dow is a natural light photographer in Shreveport, Louisiana. 

She is a military spouse and a dedicated mother.  To learn more about Virginia, you can follow her on Facebook, or view her website.

To learn more about Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome, visit The TTTS Foundation here.

Judgment

We all fight it.  It’s so easy when we don’t love someone’s outfit or we disagree with someone’s choices.  The truth is, however, that no one really needs your negative opinions on their choices.  It actually freeing to embrace people’s choices for what they are; THEIRS.

Judgment sucks.

george-bohunicky-118985

It is enlightening to admire someone for their choices.  Try it.  the next time you see someone with a wild hairstyle, challenge your criticism and give them credit for their individualized choice.  How amazing that they feel safe to show their style.

Doula experience has taught me this.  I have tossed aside my judgmental self and embraced the amazing differences in people.  Belive me, I used to be judgmental.  I used to criticize people, in my head.  The truth is that they had something I didn’t have, courage to be themselves.  Now that I’m less critical of others, I feel more strength to be myself.  Imagine that.

You want to birth outside?  AMAZING.
You’d like a VBAC?  FABULOUS.
You are planning an epidural?  GREAT. 

You really want to plan an un-medicated birth? FANTASTIC.

See, as your doula (or your friend), I want to support you have a birth that you want, which involves listening to you, hearing you, and celebrating your choices; and getting excited about them!  Your birth has nothing to do with me, I’m just there to help you.

Hiring a doula should consist of hiring someone you trust to honor your choices.  Someone who will support you, no matter what kind of birth you are planning.  By the way, those same rules apply to friends and family.  If they aren’t supporting your choices, it’s time to reconsider.

Seriously, JUDGMENT SUCKS.