The day our pregnancy journey took an unexpected turn

It’s amazing what can happen in a year.

One moment we were on this high, enjoying the pregnancy, living life, awaiting the arrival of our bundles of joy.

Then all of a sudden, we found ourselves on a scary new road, the future of our pregnancy daunting and uncertain.

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I’m writing this post because I want to finally write about the place we were in our pregnancy a year ago. I kept to myself a lot during that time and was pretty secretive about my situation. There wasn’t a trace of what was going on in my blog. Part of me wanted to share every detail, the heartache and the frustration. The other part of me wanted to leave that part of my life among my family and closest friends and just continue to only write about the happy stuff on my blog. Looking back, I wish I shared more of myself and the things going on. Maybe I could have heard tips from others who had similar experiences. Maybe I could have benefited from more support outside of my little circle. While I was too scared to talk about it before, I am ready to look back and reflect with gratitude and share it with you.

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Warning… this is a verrry long post… Continue reading if you dare…

On May 1, 2013, I was put on strict bed rest. I was only at 21 weeks, just barely over 4 months. I didn’t quite understand the severity and fragility of the situation at the very beginning, but I quickly learned just how important it was to cook those babies as long as I could. It was a long three months, from the very beginning of May to the last day in July. It was a hard battle to fight, but it was worth every second.

The phone call

At the time, we had just found out we were carrying twins and that they were boys. It was a happy appointment – we got the little sonogram printouts that we couldn’t wait to share with family and friends. Later that afternoon, I received a call from the doctor’s office telling me there was an issue with the pregnancy. I was told not to be scared or alarmed, but usually when you receive a call from the doctor that quickly after an appointment, it’s hard not to worry. I was told our babies had this thing going on called twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS).

I remember being alone in my work break room, listening to this news a nurse was explaining to me. My body went numb. Just like an out-of-body experience, I removed my feelings and emotions from the moment in order for me to absorb the information accurately so I could later convey them to my husband. I remember I had a pen and a pad of paper because something told me I needed to write down what I would be told. I remember the nurse trying to explain TTTS, but it wasn’t quite sticking in my brain. All I remember were phrases along the lines of, “One baby’s amniotic fluid level is a lot higher while the other’s is lower than we like,” and “The babies share the connections to one placenta and therefore we are concerned about one baby getting more nutrients than the other, and “Don’t worry, we see a bladder in each of the babies, which is a good thing…”

I heard the nurse, but I wasn’t quite processing everything. I needed my husband to help me understand. After the phone call, I immediately asked my husband to meet me (thank goodness we work in the same building) and the minute I began talking, I remember I started to break down and cry. I told him what I could through my tears, trying to be strong, but also feeling so helpless for our unborn babies. Together, we came up with a few questions to help clarify our understanding. I called the nurse back and she was ever so sweet in helping me get answers.

Hearing from the experts

The next order of business was to get evaluated by the experts. We were referred to the UCSF Medical Center. We heard this place had quite the reputation for their Fetal Treatment Center and that some celebrities even have brought their children there. Without losing it and trying to remain strong, we made the drive to SF to learn more about our situation.

The doctors and nurses at UCSF were excellent. They were nice and understanding (shout out to Janice!). I had to undergo what seemed like endless ultrasounds in order for them to take a good look at the scenario, take a ton of measurements and pictures, and evaluate and inspect every millimeter of each baby. My belly was so exposed that day! Tons of goo (the cold stuff that you see in the movies) and a lot of watching the ultrasound technician do her thing, while we wondered exactly what she was seeing. We knew she couldn’t tell us much because she wasn’t the doctor, but we were in such suspense as we waited to hear results.

When we finally sat down with a doctor to hear her opinion on the TTTS, it was an experience I’ll never forget. She reiterated a lot of the things we had either heard from our doctor back home or read about online. She explained that if the situation gets to a certain point, there is a laser treatment that can be performed to possibly help the situation, although there were no guarantees.

The worse part of that moment, was when she asked what our wishes were should the babies be delivered before 24 weeks. Specifically, she asked if we would like the babies resuscitated. We were confused. Why were we being asked this question? Was there any other option? Would someone even consider saying, “no?” Janice, the nurse who was sitting in our meeting, gently explained that California law does not require the medical staff to resuscitate a baby who is born before 24 weeks of gestation. Beginning 24 weeks and beyond, the law does require it. We were barely at 21 weeks. I couldn’t imagine the babies being born this early, at a pound each, let alone imagine them facing someone else’s decision about whether they should be given a chance to survive.

It was surreal. I almost lost it. We said of course we would want everything done for the babies to save them should they come too early. I think that was one of the moments in the pregnancy when things took a huge turn for me and I understood how delicate the situation was.

I forgot to mention another twist to our story. Not only did we have the TTTS going on with the babies, but I was dilated a centimeter and told I was already having contractions (even though I couldn’t feel them)! My cervix had begun to open, just when I was told at previous appointments how tightly shut it was and that things were “looking great.” Just like that, I had already started down that road that I knew from movies and life in general shouldn’t begin until your “water breaks.” I knew there was a slow and steady process every pregnant woman goes through when in labor, which involves the doctor providing updates on the number of centimeters dilated until she reaches 10. But that is supposed to happen when the baby reaches full-term, at 40 weeks. Here I was at 21…

Doctor’s orders: Strict bed rest

So, it was then I was told that I should stop working right away and go on bed rest. The medical community does not entirely feel bed rest helps in a situation like this, but it certainly couldn’t hurt. I was given prescription medicine to keep my contractions under control. I was told to stay home and brutally limit my mobility: keep my movement downstairs only (no going upstairs), only get up for bathroom breaks, minimize my trips to the kitchen and even try to just have snacks and a cooler next to me, and to only attend doctor appointments. What’s worse, is that I couldn’t even lay down in a position to just recline and prop up a laptop on my lap. No, I had to be sideways, or at least prop myself up with a pillow in order to relieve the pressure on my cervix. I thought I could work from home, but once I couldn’t exactly type sideways, I gave that up quickly.

Pros from bed rest: No work! Everyone waits on me hand and foot! I could boss everyone around ask politely for others to do things for me. Netflix and TV shows. Reading galore. Do my nails and toes (until I couldn’t reach them anymore). Sleep anytime I wanted to (in fact, I slept a LOT).

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Cons from bed rest: Bed rest does NOT give you real rest (I was achy and it was hard to get comfortable). I was so tired all the time. Muscle loss. No more running, exercising, volleyball, etc… Staying home means no more going out to birthday parties and dinner dates and friends’ houses. Missing out on the entire summer, my favorite season of the year!!!

Every week, every DAY was critical. We would celebrate each moment we woke up and realize the babies had another day to grow inside the safest place on earth, my belly. The days seemed long at times… I didn’t know how I’d get through. But what could I do except follow the doctor’s orders, take my medicine, and wait?

Hospital bed rest

At one time, I was on hospital bed rest… for almost two weeks! It was insane. After an appointment with my OB, she told me to go home, pack a bag, and return to the Roseville Kaiser (which is some 45 minutes away from home). There was a high-risk unit there, where I could be monitored and be close to the high-risk neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) should anything happen and the babies get delivered early.

I look back and cannot believe I stayed in a hospital for so long. Granted, some women end up staying on hospital bed rest for MONTHS, hooked up to monitors 24/7, up until the very moment their babies are delivered. Thankfully, I did not have to stay that long, although any amount of time in the hospital for a reason other than check ups, ultrasounds, and labor/delivery are not exactly what a pregnant woman looks forward to.

Thank goodness for the amazing nurses! Many of them helped me stay strong and put me at ease. My hubby stayed with me EVERY NIGHT, sleeping on a less than comfy pull out of a couch, if that’s what it was. My family visited me almost every day, bringing good food to beat the hospital food that was on a rotation I quickly got tired of. I tried to sleep a lot to make the time pass. I had a small little window to the outside world and yearned for the sunlight on my skin.

I looked forward to dressing up for doctors appointments

I looked forward to dressing up for doctors appointments

The secret blog

It was during my hospital stay that I began fervidly writing all of my thoughts and feelings out. During the moments I was alone in the hospital, I would scribble my worries and fears, the highlights of the day, the hope that I hung on to. I would describe the doctor’s evaluation for that morning and I would record the outcome of the fetal monitoring (NSTs – neonatal stress tests) that were performed twice a day. I needed a sounding board, an outlet for the whirlwind taking place inside of me.

I called my secret blog, “Cooking the Booplets.” An inside thing between the husband and I was to call our bun in the oven our “booplet.” Then when we found out there were two, we referred to them as the “booplets.” The name stuck and so it made sense that I would write about cooking them. Looking back, I can’t believe how much I wrote! All of these posts were written aside from my Sharissespieces blog, since I was so nervous about sharing the situation with just anyone. I didn’t like burdening others with my worries. I didn’t want to hear the pity and see the sad faces. I kept my public posts on this blog perky and happy, despite the troubles I was facing in my private life.

From surviving to thriving

With our strong faith and unfailing support system, we chugged along week after week. We reached a point where I was even given permission to attend baby classes at the hospital! It was hilarious how excited I was to see people in the outside world. I was monitored twice a week at a local clinic (shout out to Deanna!) and it was so cool how I got to hear the babies’ heartbeats so often. I also had double, if not triple, the doctor appointments because of our high-risk situation, and we luckily got to have a TON of ultrasounds performed. We saw our babies so often and got to see their growth more often than we ever would have expected.

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Just as our pregnancy took an unexpected turn when we learned of the TTTS and that I was dilated a centimeter and having contractions, we were told that the TTTS has basically corrected itself and was no longer existent! Miraculously the babies’ fluid levels kept getting more and more equal, to the point that the TTTS was considered gone. This was a true blessing as we learned only about 50% of TTTS cases get better and the other half get worse, only to often end up in tragic outcomes. It was unbelievable. Also, my cervix stayed dilated at one centimeter, thanks to my obedience to the bed rest and meds.

After three whole months of being put on strict bed rest, the babies made their debut. The VERY NIGHT I was taken off of the medicine that kept my contractions under control, is the night my water broke! You can read more about my birth story here!

I still want to write a post on our experiences in the NICU. Gosh, that was such a scary and heavenly place at the same time. The boys spent almost a month there, and while it was so heartbreaking to leave your babies each night, we were grateful for the care they received and the help we were given from the NICU nurses. Happy Nurses Week to each of them!

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I can’t believe I wrote this much, but writing this post is cathartic for me. As with writing in general, I feel relieved of this penned up energy that had been brewing for over a year. The booplets are more than alright now, they are happy, healthy, and thriving! The way we handled our pregnancy was the epitome of the phrase, “Go with the flow.” We just had to keep chugging and hope for the best, even if we were thrown more hurdles and setbacks. The same phrase has been the theme of parenting – you can only do our best, especially as first time parents. You can set schedules, read the books, and make plans, but everything can change in the blink of an eye and you’ll have to just roll with the punches. To anyone who gets placed on bed rest, you can and will get through it! It is a fleeting time in your life that you have to just give 120% of yourself in order to give your baby – or babies – the best fighting chance at life they deserve.

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More on mommy-hood

More on boosting that mommy confidence! Even if you are not a mom or parent, you may have little ones in your life or friends who are parents. Hopefully some of these reads will enlighten any ideas or even myths you have about parenthood!

First off, I need to say something! If you know me well, you know what a perfectionist-Type A-OCD person I am. I am that person who will rewrite her to-do list after a few things have been crossed off, make sure the papers are perfectly lined up before stapling them, adjust the placemats on the table so that they line up correctly, toss a piece of paper just to redo a line graph that was not exactly straight. You get the point. But now that I don’t have as much time on my hands, I have to start letting things go. I can’t keep waiting until something is perfect when it is already pretty good, or even great, as is. Therefore, I am just throwing out these additional articles and blog posts below even though I really envisioned a perfect post that I could explain my every thought and organize them by category and even add a few pictures of my own. Ehh, stop talking now, Sharisse.

Here I go (again) trying to just be concise and move on with my life! Here is, instead, an ongoing compilation of things that have boosted my mommy confidence:

#10) Stop the Mommy Wars

http://herscoop.com/posts/empowering-photo-series/

#11) Hey. Hi. I want off your parenting team.

[WARNING: This post contains quite a bit of profanity and if you know anything about me, you’ll know that is not very “me.” But don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed reading this one!]

http://www.renegademothering.com/2014/01/16/hey-hi-i-want-off-all-mothering-teams/

#12) Why My Wife’s Job is Harder Than Mine

http://bowlingwithed.com/2014/01/16/why-my-wifes-job-is-harder-than-mine/

See my previous post with articles 1-9 HERE!

And if you’re feeling like reading a little (or a LOT) more, I wrote a cheesy piece on my own personal experiences of being a mom HERE🙂

Notes to myself and their first photoshoot

Photography by Tammy Nguyen Le

Photography by Tammy Nguyen Le

It’s almost here. My dreaded return to work. I cannot begin to tell you the heartache I feel every time I think about it. I know I’m not the first mama to go through this, and I’m well aware that things will be fine and we will adjust. But the actual experience of going through it is extremely hard! I’ve been home almost nine whole months, from my initial pregnancy bed rest to the next six months of our baby boys’ lives. Seems just like yesterday when they first arrived. We’ve grown to know each other, we’ve learned more than enough about babies and parenthood (and still learning), and just overall have enjoyed the time together.

As I type this, the whole house is silent. The boys ate earlier around 6:30 and 7 am and shortly after when back down for a nap. I pumped at 5 am and my next session isn’t until 9. My cup of coffee is to my right, I just finished eating breakfast. As always, a million thoughts run through my head and yet all I want to do is enjoy the calm. My to-do list is endless, the house is still a mess… I should take a nap or do the dishes or prepare their next bottles or get myself freshened up for the day… Instead, I want to make a few notes to myself:

A year from now, five years, 10 years… I want to remember the incredible feeling it is to be a parent. I want my future self to know that throughout all the hard times, the blood, sweat, and tears, the crying babies, the diapers, the soothing, the rocking, the laughs, the smiles, the playing, the joy… We’ve had one of the most incredible experiences and blessings life could ever bring. Parenthood TRULY TRULY TRULY is the hardest job you’ll ever love. I look back at these past few months and it seriously is a blur. I didn’t know how I’d get past the sleepless nights, the feedings every 2-3 hours, the pumping every 2-3 hours, the fatigue, the frustration, the times I couldn’t believe the thought of giving up crossed my mind. Yet here we are, pushing through each day and looking back and being very proud of ourselves. I just seriously didn’t know what kind of a ride we were in for, now I just cannot believe life without our babies.

This morning, Jeremiah started talking in his crib around 5 am (I could hear on the monitor). He didn’t need to be soothed just yet, so I let him be and he continued to chat. I proceed to pump while I was already awake. Then he decided to full on scream. So I had to stop pumping and go tend to him. He calmed down a bit. I returned to pump, but not even a few minutes later, he screamed again. At that point, I took him out of his crib because I didn’t want him to wake Adrian (who sleeps through Jer’s sleeping, or at least is such a sweetheart and can go back to sleep after being waken up!), and nursed him in bed. He fell asleep nursing and just as I was about to put him back in his crib, I just held him close. I held him and breathed him all in. His hand laid on my chest and I just soaked in the entire moment. Snuggling in bed with this precious baby was so wonderful. Of course, he didn’t last forever though! He eventually woke up crying, so I had to get up and rock him a bit. I am worried about rocking them too much when they are about to enter daycare, but I finally realized that they will learn soon enough how to adapt to daycare so until then I will hold them as much as I can!!! Thanks to my Mommy Group, I have so many mamas telling me their experiences with the daycare transition. I am prepared for the tears and sadness in the beginning, but will be hopeful that the boys will be just fine.

Future Sharisse, remember:

– How strong you were being on strict pregnancy bed rest for three entire months: You had to literally walk into your office the following day of being told about bed rest and pack your stuff and leave. You had to give up your dreams of being pregnant in the summer (I know, who wants that?), walking around in those final months of pregnancy, continuing to exercise and run, have a baby shower or two, eat out at nice restaurants and go to the movies before babies arrived… You were so strong.

– How sweet and caring your hubby was: He stood by your side during each doctor appointment. He took on the house maintenance, the laundry, the dishes, the food. He always comforted you whenever you had a doubt in your mind, reassuring you that we would get through every down we experienced. He shared in your joy each time we got through a new hurdle and we experienced good news. He was your rock.

– How amazing your family was in supporting you: They provided food, they visited, they prayed for you. Your sister stuck around almost every day, helping you prepare food, get you refill of water after refill, and drive you to your beloved NST appointments – twice a week! Your family did so much to support you during a rough time. They were there, as they always were and will be.

– How precious your babies were from the day they were born and how amazing they are now. The minute you saw their heads full of hair and their eyes look up at you, you fell in love! They stole your heart and would forever keep it. How sweet, sweet, SWEET they were in the NICU. Fighting to get through each day. Pushing through the feeding tubes, the blood sugar checks, the meds… How strong Adrian was to avoid surgery for his dear heart. What a champ he was. How strong Jer was to head home first and pave the way into a new place. The first time you nursed them successfully, how incredible it felt to hear and see them doing something you so desperately could not wait to do. The way they would stop in the middle of a nursing session, look up with their beautiful brown eyes, and crack a smile or even a small laugh. How much they captivate your soul with just a touch of their small hands and feet. How soft and perfect their skin is and how much you want to breath them in all day long. They are TRUE LOVE!

– Lastly, that no matter what, even though you are their foundation and roots, you MUST MUST MUST teach them to spread their wings and fly. It is a long time from now, and yet I know that you will blink and wonder how you got to where you are now. That they will ALWAYS be your babies, but they will need to be independent one day and grow to be strong met who know how to take care of themselves and fight. It will be OK when they need to grow up because you were there for every moment in their life when they needed you the most. Right now, they need you for everything because they cannot feed themselves, bathe, change, or even speak for themselves. But all of those little things you do will not have been for nothing. Keep pushing on and staying strong for them!

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OK! Enough with the sappy stuff and onto the cuteness overload!!! Hope you can handle it because I sure can’t!

Our boys had an AMAZING photoshoot this week – Thanks to Photography by Tammy Nguyen Le & Christy for capturing our beautiful baby boys! Here are some favorites…

Photography by Tammy Nguyen Le

Photography by Tammy Nguyen Le

Photography by Tammy Nguyen Le

Photography by Tammy Nguyen Le

Photography by Tammy Nguyen Le

Photography by Tammy Nguyen Le

Photography by Tammy Nguyen Le

Photography by Tammy Nguyen Le

Photography by Tammy Nguyen Le

Photography by Tammy Nguyen Le

Photography by Tammy Nguyen Le

Photography by Tammy Nguyen Le

Photography by Tammy Nguyen Le

Photography by Tammy Nguyen Le

Photography by Tammy Nguyen Le

Photography by Tammy Nguyen Le

Photography by Tammy Nguyen Le

Photography by Tammy Nguyen Le

Photography by Tammy Nguyen Le

Photography by Tammy Nguyen Le

Photography by Tammy Nguyen Le

Photography by Tammy Nguyen Le

Photography by Tammy Nguyen Le

Photography by Tammy Nguyen Le

Photography by Tammy Nguyen Le

Photography by Tammy Nguyen Le

See more here!

 

Surviving the Holidays: Do less stuff

Adrian Boy & Jer Bear

Just be. Be warm, be fuzzy, be slightly squishy. Be in the moment, be on the couch sniffing the baby’s head, Be Still.

Do less stuff. 

This article written to Mamas of Littles during the holidays was a very nice reminder of what counts this holiday season.

As much as glitter and gifts are on my mind, it’s about spending time with loved ones, especially my little ones.

It’s about cherishing these moments that sometimes slip through the cracks of Black Friday shopping and Christmas plans, the decorations to be hung and cookies to be baked.

Of course I want to make this first Christmas for the boys memorable (for us and for them to look back on), so I’m looking forward to snapping photos and dressing them up.

But instead of feeling frustrated or stressed about my mile-long to do list, I’ll simply do what I can and not sweat the rest (ahem, maybe one or two glisten drops, but I promise at least no throwing a fit).

I’ll pray more, give thanks more, and love more.

I Didn’t Sign Up For This

What’s a gal to do at 3:41 am in the morning as she’s burping one twin after the other? Capitalize on those creative juices and write a poem of course! Somehow a few rhymes in my head turned into a full blown poem. It’s very, very long. I just couldn’t stop writing.

True story: I used to write poems as a kid all the time. I even had a poem book. The writing went on through middle and high school. I even spoke at my middle school and high school graduations and guess what I read? POEMS! Maybe if I can dig them up I will post them one day… or not. Anyway, here’s something I wrote in the past few days as a tribute to my pregnancy and first few months as a parent. Hope you like it!

 

I Didn’t Sign Up For This

 

We were ready for A baby

We knew the time was right

We enjoyed our time alone

Traveling and partying all night

 

Continue reading

Heartbroken, hopeful.

Friday’s tragedy at Sandy Hook has hit me really hard. I feel so shaken by the reality of what happened. A ton of thoughts flood my mind: the heartache of these families, the trauma of the survivors, the questions of the nation. There are two blog posts I read the other day, which I was grateful for because I share the same feelings and thoughts of these writers:
And the read that really made my heart sink was written by a mother whose son struggles with a mental illness. She wrote this piece so well and it looks like it has gotten around. There is hope that more and more people are understanding that there is a bigger problem our nation faces. Hopefully leaders are touched with these cries for help, causing them to bravely point their efforts in a better direction to prevent tragedies in the future.
Here is the link: Thinking the Unthinkable