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The Best Laid Plans

on September 20 | in Motherhood | by | with 46 Comments

Note from Mommypotamus: Today I am so honored to share this guest post from Maureen Alley, a stay-at-home mom of twin boys.  Their days are filled with walks in the park, listening to Irish music, enjoying smooshed banana, and of course, nursing!

I Had A Plan

I had a couple different plans, actually.  There was one for the year leading up to getting pregnant—switch to organic foods and all natural soaps and lotions—and there was a plan for during the pregnancy, which was all about glowing, gentle yoga, and cute maternity clothes.  I had a birth plan too, of course, which involved no drugs, perhaps a water tub, and a general celebration of birth and my body’s abilities.  I also had a plan for after the birth day, which was a bit vague.  I knew it involved breastfeeding, but I didn’t think much beyond that.

Everything was going according to plan, right up until about the tenth week of pregnancy.  I had a blood test that showed elevated levels of hormones, which hit my internal panic button.  In an effort to allay my fears, my OB sent me in for an ultrasound.  My husband and I were waiting anxiously to hear the confirmation that our baby was ok, and there was nothing to worry about.

“Do twins run in your family?”

I didn’t think much of the technician’s first question.  I figured it was routine, something she asked everyone.  So I answered,

“No, why?”

“Because I see two babies in there!”

At first, I thought that exhilarating news meant the end of my best-laid plans.  My OB began tossing around words like “elevated risk”, “c-section”, and “prematurity”.  I realized that I had two choices: I could acquiesce to her plan for me, or I could find a way to create a better reality for myself and my babies.  So, I signed up for a natural-childbirth class, fired my old OB and found a new one, one who had conversations with me instead of talking at me.

I Attended My Childbirth Classes . . .

Le Leche League meetings and kept practicing yoga. I befriended a midwife, and collected positive twin stories.  I got acupuncture, prenatal massage, and super-fruit smoothies.  I visualized the birth I wanted, I talked and sang to the babies who were stretching my womb and my imagination.  I woke up every day of my second trimester smiling and rubbing my burgeoning belly.   My original plan was altered but still basically intact.

Because my husband and I decided to stay within the medical establishment, I also saw a perinatologist.  He was a specialist in caring for mothers of multiples, and he won my trust with honest answers to my copious questions.  So when Dr. M dropped the “b word”, I listened.  Bed rest?!  Bed rest would ruin my hope for an active pregnancy, but I decided to plan for it accordingly.  I squared away everything at work, found a substitute for my class, and checked up on my short-term disability policy.  I honestly thought that if I worked so hard at preparing for bed rest it would never happen.  However, right before I hit 24 weeks, I was put on modified bed rest due to a structurally unsound cervix.

I was devastated at first, but I decided to roll with the punches and enjoy the quiet weeks I had before my babies arrived.  I had a lot of weeks to go, but I truly enjoyed my first Friday of bed rest.  I rested, reflected, and fidgeted.  I was feeling “off”, but attributed that to the fact my professional life had just ended for awhile and I was anticipating being bored.  I spent that Saturday turning and readjusting myself on the couch.  I was irritable and short with my husband.  When, around seven pm, I started cramping in my low back and getting a feeling of heaviness in my uterus, I called my midwife friend.  I explained how I was feeling and she told me to go the hospital.  Really?  Well, if the midwife-who-hates-hospitals tells you to go, you go.

Once at the hospital, getting hooked up to a contraction monitor was the first step in a nightmarish journey through pre-term labor.  I learned all about—and experienced—terb, mag, and the chilling dread brought about by a visit from the neonatologist who told us what to expect if our boys should be born so devastatingly early.  At this stage, all my energy and focus went inward, to convince my body to keep those precious baby boys on the inside.  They were not done cooking, and I was determined to let them finish.

For The Next Ten Weeks I Stayed Still . . .

Literally and figuratively.  I prayed and bargained and hoped against hope that we would make it to 38 weeks.  I kept up the visualization, but after every subsequent visit to the labor and delivery floor, every new plunge of the needle, every time I hooked myself up to the home contraction monitor, I grieved for what I was losing.  I knew I would not have a peaceful drug free birth.  I had lost the pregnancy I wanted, but I still had my babies, and for that I was grateful with every fiber of my being.  I clung so hard to that fact that I didn’t allow myself to feel much else.

Just before I hit 34 weeks gestation, I had to go back to the hospital.  Never in my wildest dreams did the drugs not work.  All of my imagined scenarios told me that if I had to be readmitted, the magnesium sulfate would work and the contractions would stop.  This time, they did not.  I was delivered of my babies on February 9, 2010 at 2:07 and 2:08 pm via c-section.  It was everything I did not want.  The next three weeks were a blur of pain, hormone-driven despair, leaving my babies in the hospital NICU when I was discharged, endless visits to that very same NICU to see my babies, and pumping.

My mother—my angel, my guide, my support, how many names do we have for mother?—made me pump my breast milk for my babies every two hours, day and night.  My supply soared, and I delivered the “liquid love” faithfully to the nurses to give my boys.  I latched on to breastfeeding as eagerly as a baby to a breast.  It was the one thing I had left, the last shred of my plans that I could accomplish.  I was grieving the loss of the pregnancy and the birth I had so desperately hoped for.  I realize that this may sound selfish or petty.  My babies had been born successfully, and barring some serious reflux issues, were healthy.  I had everything to be joyous about, but try telling a post-partum mom how to feel!  It would have been easier to scale a mountain than regulate my feelings at that point.

Pride Was One Positive Emotion . . .

That permeated the cloud.  I was so proud of being able to pump 6 ounces per session!  My husband and I learned how to feed premature babies from slow flow bottles, and we brought each of them home in due time.  My babies were getting optimum nutrition, but I still felt something was missing.  That something was undoubtedly sleep, but it was also a stronger bond with my babies that I was craving.  Finally, one day my mom told me, in essence, to “Sit down and nurse your babies.”  Their mouths were big enough at this point, and they were more than eager.  My some miracle of chance, there was no nipple confusion at all.  Both of my squally squirmy squeaky baby boys took to the breast like pros.  Because they were!  They wanted the comfort and fullness of mama’s breasts.  And it gave me unspeakable joy to give it to them.

I nursed my babies when they were hungry, when they were sleepy, and when they were hurting from the reflux.  Nursing became the only thing that soothed my fussier twin, so we had marathon nursing sessions, the longest of which was four hours straight.  I was a zombie shell of a woman, but my children were thriving and growing.  I was a mama.

Now, seven months into this crazy adventure, I am still nursing my boys, day and night, although we are all sleeping more.  My confidence grows with each day, as do my boys.  I have become very adept at juggling two wiggling bodies when it’s time to nurse, and I’ve managed to accomplish tandem feeding just about everywhere we’ve been, including in the (non-moving) car and on the beach.  But my favorite nursing sessions are the quiet ones at home, with both boys snuggled around me like commas.

Their sighs and hums are my favorite music, and my heart melts every time one of them stirs to check and make sure I’m still there before drifting off again.  The miracle of hormones, those that I cursed just a few short months ago, is that nursing makes me feel so good.  The love-chemicals get released each time one of my boys latches on, and they go to work, easing the tension of the day and softening the ragged, visceral edges of my memories of the early days.

I didn’t get the pregnancy I wanted, and I certainly didn’t get the birth I wanted, but I got the children I dreamed of.  I got two healthy, happy boys, and I get to nurse them every day.  Breastfeeding has eased my heart while providing for my children.  I am lucky, I know I am.  It couldn’t have worked out better if I had planned it…

*Photo graciously provided by Michelle Monk Photography

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46 Responses to The Best Laid Plans

  1. Sarah says:

    Your post sent me right back! Twin boys, 34 week c-section and a month in the NICU. Add in a 2 year old older brother and you have the makings of a CHALLENGING first year! But we made it as well and things get better and easier as each day passes. The twins are 18 months now! We made it!!

    • Maureen says:

      Oh, my goodness, Sarah… I cannot imagine all of this with a two year old added to the mix! Bravo to you, momma! I’m so glad you’ve made it. That gives me great hope!

    • Heather says:

      Wow, Sarah! That does sound challenging! Any advice for us on how you helped the two-year old with the transition?

      • Sarah says:

        well it was not easy or pretty that is for SURE! But the best advice I thought was this. If they both need attention at the same time (baby & older sib) always attend to the oldest first. The older child is old enought to know what is going on. Its ok to let the little one cry for an extra few minutes and then attend to him. This was agonizing for me! But well worth it in the long run. Also, if the baby is sleeping or happy put him down so you can give your older child some one on one attention. The older one is taking notes on how you respond the baby isn’t….yet:)

  2. Stacey says:

    Wow, you got me thinking, I had a plan too, about the type of mother I’d be, what I didn’t plan on was the effect of years sleep deprivation would have on me. I didn’t plan on yelling at my children, I didn’t plan on being grumpy & cranky & I most certainly didn’t plan on being THAT sort of mother….I know I’m not always THAT mother but SHE is around way too often these days!

    • Maureen says:

      I know what you mean about THAT mother, Stacey. I didn’t like her when she showed up through me at my sleep-deprived worst. What do you find helps to be the mommy you want to be? I’m trying to get back to yoga, but it’s hard to find (make?) the time.

  3. shannon says:

    that’s wonderful and so true! having to leave them in NICU is terrible but I will say I felt the same about my pride in being able to pump so much for my little one since it’s the only thing I could do! :) Thank you for your post. It was great! :)

  4. Des says:

    Wow! I’ve been there. Not with twins, but I went into labor with my son at 22 weeks. I went through a few rounds of Mag and was on Terb and another drug (escapes my mind) round the clock. A few extended stays in the hospital. Almost 4 months of bed rest. It was one of the hardest times in my life, but YES he is so worth every tear, every pain, every needle, every question of WHY ME? I would do it all over again, a million times because my life would not be complete without him.

    • Maureen says:

      Yes, they are worth every thing I went through, Des :-) And it’s amazing how after seven months, the hardest parts of blurry and indistinct.

  5. Heather says:

    While I have not been there, I could not help thinking “that could have been me.” Natural birthing momma that I am, every emotion you described is what I would feel if I had faced your challenges. How beautifully you have woven those losses and disappointments into something beautiful! My favorite line is “Their sighs and hums are my favorite music, and my heart melts every time one of them stirs to check and make sure I’m still there before drifting off again.”

    Sighs and hums are my favorite music, too! Thank you for giving this one-week postpartum momma a good cry and a reason to be grateful : )

    • Maureen says:

      You’re welcome :-) I hope it was a GOOD cry. I remember how leaky I was postpartum, tears and milk! Thank you for giving me a place to share my story. I really enjoy your blog, and I hope you’re doing well!

  6. Heather says:

    Maureen – I was wondering: If you take milk to the NICU for your own babies do they pasteurize it?

    • Maureen says:

      No, they didn’t pasteurize my milk at the NICU, thank goodness. They used it fresh if it was right before feeding time, or froze it for later use.

  7. Tana says:

    Beautiful! I am so happy that you were able to nurse your babies! What a joy it is and what a blessing, too. Hurray for prolactin and especially for the special closeness with your sons. Your writing style is lovely, by the way, so real and tangible.

  8. Shari VV says:

    Great, great post! I understand completely not getting the birth you wanted and the devastation afterwards. Despite my careful plans, 2 days of labor and 10+ hours of pushing got me an unplanned c-section. I was so distraught on that stupid operating table and my husband was, too, but he kept reminding me that everything happens for a reason. In my case, that precious baby boy knew to protect me. I had a significant tear on my bladder and had I pushed him out naturally, my bladder would have definitely ruptured. I was able to have it repaired right after his birth and he came out perfect. I also have to credit Baylor downtown Dallas, my L&D nurse and my doctor. Despite my complete distrust of most MDs, he was my biggest supporter and I was never forced to be constantly monitored, have an IV, etc. the entire time I labored. I labored at home until the last possible moment and even our time at the hospital was beautiful and dark and private. I am at peace with the fact that my son had the benefit of a full, natural labor even if he didn’t come out naturally. He latched on immediately and we never had any BF problems, so I understand that pride, too! :) He turned 10 months yesterday and is still nursing like crazy.

    • Maureen says:

      Wow, Shari…sometimes “Everything happens for a reason” echoes with an empty ring, but other times it shouts with verity. I got goosebumps reading your story. I am so happy it worked out for you, and that you’re still nursing your little man!

  9. moviedodd says:

    Very nice entry! I must say, it sounds quite familiar to me

  10. Kristine says:

    Maureen, I love how you describe having “both boys snuggled around me like commas.” We all have things happen that we don’t plan for, but I think it’s great that you can see past the negatives and focus on the positive outcome!

  11. Leah says:

    What a beautiful post, Maureen. I think it is one that so many Moms can relate to – although we may not have all experienced loss and grief in the exact same way, we can all relate to things not working out exactly the way we had planned, and finding joy where it may be found. Thanks for sharing part of your journey. I pray that you continue to find joy in unexpected places. And please hug your Mom for me – she sounds like an amazing woman!

  12. katie says:

    Love the story!! it made me cry :)

  13. Katie W says:

    I loved reading the story from your perspective Maureen! The boys are such a blessing!

  14. Sally A. says:

    You are a strong woman and a good mommy just like your mom!

  15. Ann Marie says:

    Reading this, what strikes me the most is how much you went through, and how little of it escaped into the realm of your (even distant) friends, as far as I know. Seven months’ past now, and I feel blessed to read this much-awaited birth story. I knew it would be a painful one, and involve compromises galore, but I did NOT realize how invested you had been in alternate plans, and how many times the Universe forced you to readjust your expectations, lower, always lower. My midwives had said that to me, verbally, AND written on the top, and bottom, in capital bold letters, on the introductory info sheet of their practice. “LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS, AND THEN LOWER THEM AGAIN.” Of your birth, of your partner, of how easily things will go, etc. etc. Of the “type” of mama you/I will be/AM now.

    You have had to go so far into a land whose shore I feared, and loathed from afar. I had plans, too, and I had/have shame for how smug I felt when all of them pranced neatly into place. I got exactly the birth I wanted, setting me up to judge others in a visceral manner that I battle regularly.
    But you are my FRIEND, Maureen, and a wise one, and I could not judge you, even on the periphery of your experience, because I KNOW just enough about you to know how researched and loving, how adamantly careful and deliberate you would be about something like pregnancy and birth. And now I read the confirmation, and feel the deep sadness for all you experienced, in your strong and rather solitary way. I wish I could be a better friend than some of the things I said to you, being both encouraging and judgmental at once. I thank you sincerely for this writing, because it is a sharing of the level that changes minds and opens hearts, and I am reminded of the necessity of extending PURELY loving support to mamas-to-be. Each mama faces choices and situations so unique, and so uniquely challenging to her personal experience and beliefs.
    I thank you for your friendship, and am grateful for your story. Love to you, and Dodd, and those beautiful little men you continue to create every single day.

  16. Rebecca M. says:

    What a beautiful, amazing story! Thank you so much for sharing it!

  17. [...] Real Life Collide), Mae (The Young and the Pregnant), Sarah (Searching For Your Swagger), Maureen (The Best Laid Plans), Dianthe (You’re Doing WHAT?!?!?), Kristine (My Kid Vs. Your Kid), Jennifer (The Great [...]

  18. Julie Charbonnet Whetstine via FB says:

    so i’m sitting her at my computer crying tears of joy about nursing babies — so much better than cleaning the house! LOL now to go snuggle my almost 4 year old and watch some pbs — thank for the journey!

  19. I agree, Julie! SO much better! Glad you enjoyed the post . . . every time I read it I am filled with gratitude for the things I often take for granted .

  20. Catherine Griffin Magner via FB says:

    That was a beautiful story. My face, shirt and lap are wet with tears.

  21. Aww, Catherine! It really is that good, isn’t it?!?!?

  22. Love this!!! My situation was not the same but very similar after 36 hours of labor and three hours of pushing my little one would not turn his head. I gave in although I did not have to but at that point I was so tired I could not think straight. All I had after that was breastfeeding. It was a long hard road but 4 years later we are still going strong and I would not of changed it for the world.

  23. Oh Michelle McCoy, I can totally identify with not thinking straight – I hallucinated that I was in Smurf land right before Katie was born! So glad you found your groove with breastfeeding. <3

  24. Susana Mojica via FB says:

    I thought my husband was the anesthesiologist- whom I did not want in the room! :)

  25. I wish so badly that I could have had a vaginal birth with my twin boys. Unfortunately baby b was way up in my abdomen and breech and his chances of flipping were very slim. But they’re here and they were/are healthy so I’m still thankful.

  26. Beautiful. What a strong lady, able to totally surrender to the needs of her babies from day one. I found breastfeeding still heals the memories of my son’s rather traumatic birth, so can relate to her story.

  27. Sandra Morgan via FB says:

    Wow brave!

  28. This is a great and encouraging story. I had to process an emergency twin c-section also. I love how you shared your heart and desires. I think I often am so afraid to fail my babies (now have 6 year old, twin 5 year olds and a one month old) and am learning how much grace and love do to carry us. I also love that each woman shares her story whether crunchy or not….:)

  29. Leah says:

    Beautifully written post that brought surges of emotions up for me. Like you, I did not get the birth(s) I wanted. Now, after 4 Csections I make it a point to let go of the negative feelings and emotions as they rise up, and choose instead to be grateful that my babies are healthy, happy, in my arms, and I have been able to nurse all 4 of them despite challenges along the way. Many mamas are not so lucky. Thanks for sharing your story!

  30. Melissa Dow says:

    Thank you for sharing your story! My twins boys are 4 months old today, and I have nursed them both since birth. I can relate to your feelings of pride. I have a 3 yo daughter and a 4 yo daughter, and some days, the fact that I am growning these boys from only what my body produces is the only thing I have to hang my mommy hat on!

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