Friday, May 17, 2013

There's Another One?

One of the greatest blessings we've received since moving to Dallas is, of course, our twin boys Ethan and Sean. Today they turn four months old and, while I can't say just yet that I really know what raising twins is like, I do know it's been decidedly easier than I'd anticipated. There's no way to wrap your mind around "It's twins" until they're in your arms.

I've been asked many times, "Do twins run in your family?" They don't, and while I don't know the actual stats, I suspect a genetic predisposition is less common than people tend to think. Still, I never envisioned Nathan and I parenting multiples.

I have a fantastic obstetrician who has cared for me body and soul for the last year. Knowing how anxious I was after losing two pregnancies, she began monitoring my hcg levels at five weeks. In the early weeks of pregnancy, a woman's hcg should roughly double in forty eight hours. Mine nearly quadrupled. "Maybe it's twins," I joked to Nathan and my mom. My mom, an RN, knew better than to think the possibility of twins was just a joke and subtily tried to prepare me for the news. "You are okay if it's twins, right?" she asked the day before my first ultrasound.

Still, I wasn't thinking about twins as I searched the (male) sonographer's face. I was just desperate for a different outcome from my last sonogram: I wanted a heartbeat. I was too afraid to look at the screen but didn't like the look on his face. What relief I felt, though, when he pointed out the sac, fetal pole, and heartbeat! "Now let's take a look over here," he told me.

"Is there another one?"

"Well--" Suddenly my trip to the doctor's office had become complicated as the sonographer showed me why he'd initially frowned during the scan. There was a second yolk sac, but it appeared empty and measured nearly a week smaller than "Baby A."

My doctor was unwilling to make a determination about "Sac B," saying it "might be too early to tell." So I left her office with a mix of emotions, elation that there was one viable embryo; a sense of pride in my superfecundity-- no matter the outcome, I had conceived twins, afterall!-- and anxiety as I hoped Sac B would become Baby B.

Google is dangerous when you're pregnant, but as I ran searches such as "two sacs, one fetal pole," I found countless stories giving me hope. I learned a good deal about twin science: it's not at all uncommon for one twin to appear less developed and measure smaller in those early days; in fact, twins may not even be conceived at the same time or even have the same father (I can unequivocally state that mine do have the same dad!)

After two weeks of waiting, praying, and wringing my hands, we received confirmation that, indeed, two babies were on the way. It's too early to tell if our guys will be double trouble, but they've been a double delight the whole way.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Ups and Downs

In just about a year my husband is supposed to walk across a stage and receive his degree from Dallas Theological Seminary. This isn't just any degree he's earning, it's a Masters of Theology in historical theology, a 120-credit "masters degree on steroids," as Nathan calls it.

I'm really getting excited about that day when we can finally say, "It's over!" This Dallas adventure has presented me with some struggles, afterall: a teaching job that gave me chestpain due to a principal who yelled at children, wouldn't let me discipline first-grade tyrants, and who ultimately gave me no choice but to resign my position when I caught her changing illiterate children's grades to A's; a revoked job offer and an attack on my personality by a school that calls itself Christian; an apartment literally crumbling due to termite infestation and sometimes crawling with roaches; the loss of two pregnancies. Yup, Texas has kicked me when I was down a few times . . .

But over the next year, I plan to remember all that has been good about this journey: the day after deciding to quit my teaching job, "the stick turned blue," Mary Kate was born eight months later, and I was able to stay home for the better part of her first year; the revoked job offer forced me to take a lower-paying job at a school whose students, parents, and employees have been like a family to me; God provided a housing miracle; and, as painful as it is to admit it, if I hadn't lost those two babies, I wouldn't have the two I have now. Texas has been quite good to me.

I plan to share some of these "ups" here on my blog. My purpose is two-fold: to preserve our story for my own memory and our children's and to, I hope, demonstate to others God's love, protection, and provision as evidenced through what He's done in our family. Soli Deo gloria.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

"Thou wilt not leave us in the dust"

Recently our Sunday school class administrator asked us each to share what he called a "God story," an example of God's working in our lives. I got my opportunity to share my story when the twins were four weeks old, the first time we brought them to church. What I shared was, I suppose, my theology of suffering.

All of my family and friends know that we now have twin boys, Ethan and Sean; but what many people do not know is that I was pregnant off and on--three times--between November 2011 and the boys' birth (births??? What does one say for twins???) in January 2013.

We hadn't been trying to conceive in 2011, but when I began experiencing my personal tell-tale symptom, restless-leg syndrome, I knew I'd better buy a pregnancy test. Sure enough, there was the plus sign. But just five days later I realized there would be no baby. I'd had a very early miscarriage the medical community now terms a "chemical pregnancy," a conception that, supposedly, doesn't implant.

To say I was disappointed is an understatement, but come January 2012, I was having restless legs again. Another test, another positive result. For a several days, I was very anxious about this pregnancy, but when I began experiencing strong nausea at just four weeks, my confidence grew. In fact, I was so confident that this pregnancy would have a happy outcome that I did what I'd never done before, started telling just about everyone that I was expecting. (I've since read that confidence is very common in a pregnancy subsequent to a miscarriage.) Thanks to difficulty finding a doctor who'd accept my insurance, the first doctor's appointment I was to have was not scheduled until I'd be eleven weeks. It seemed like forever to wait, but the nausea was so bad and I was already sporting a bump noticeable to my colleagues that I remained confident--confident till the afternoon of February 27 when I found myself dashing out of work, frantically calling Nathan to meet me at my old obstetrician's office (The practice I was planning to visit in the next week refused to see me, so hang it if I had to pay out of pocket!), and waiting anxiously for the nurse practitioner to tell me everything was fine.

As soon as I saw that little jellybean on the sonogram, I knew all was not fine. Stillness, no fluttering heartbeat so evident in healthy embryos at that stage.

Thus began the most painful weeks of my life. I didn't want a D&C, so I waited and waited, gave up waiting and took Cytotec, and still ended up with that blasted D&C. There were some very dark moments during those days. I'm not sure I've even been able to express to Nathan how oppressive those days between the diagnosis and the D&C were, so I cannot even begin to describe them here. Instead I'll fast forward to May 2012.

The restless-leg returned. Why do I even bother buying pregnancy tests? Of course I was pregnant. And this time I got the happy ending, the doubly happy ending.

When I shared this story with our Sunday school class, I said, "I could say, 'My story is that God gave me two babies to replace the ones we lost.'"

It would make a nice, tidy ending, wouldn't it? As Christians, we like our stories of suffering to be so simple: something bad happened, but then God did such-and-such for me, and now I know it was all worth it. Or, if there is no happy ending here in this life, we say, "I'll know why God allowed this when I get to heaven." But I don't think our stories should even end with heaven.

What I learned through the loss of two pregnancies was an appreciation for the Second Coming. You see, once upon a time, God really did created a man and a woman and place them in Eden, a perfect world. But they sinned, and as Milton so beautifully put it, "Earth felt the wound, and Nature from her seat/ Sighing through all her Works gave signs of woe." God did not create a world in which babies were to be lost, and--we, so thankful for Christ's redemptive work on the cross to save our souls--forget that He will not allow such a world to remain.

A friend of mine reminded me of Romans 8 during my sorrowful days, and I read the passage again and again. What stood out to me wasn't "All things work together for good . . . " but verses 18-25:

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Adam was once told to subdue the earth and have dominion over it. He failed, but the Second Adam will have dominion over a new earth--an entire earth that will be as Eden. Pain, gone. Genetic defects, gone. Death, gone. All effects of the curse, removed. I did not, could not appreciate the entirety of God's redemptive plan until I suffered. And now, because I have experienced the effects of the Fall in one of the bitterest of ways, I long for the day the King of Kings will make all things new.